The speech that Darling never made
Here’s a strange thing. Alistair Darling is quoted in yesterday’s Telegraph as telling Scottish voluntary organisations that they would lose lottery funding if people vote yes in September’s referendum. Only, there’s one small problem with the story. He didn’t actually say it.
The Telegraph reports that:
“Speaking at the SCVO conference in Glasgow, Mr Darling will say: “As part of the UK we have more funds at our disposal to bring about the kind of change our communities need. Shutting ourselves off from what we know has worked makes no sense.
“Projects and groups in Scotland have received substantial funding from the National Lottery. It’s a cross border relationship that works, but only because we are part of the UK. Leaving the UK would fundamentally change that.”
Better Together pointed to a parliamentary answer showing that only 739 of the 226,000 National Lottery grants – representing one per cent of their total value – have been classified as “overseas” over the past decade.
They were defined as those made to projects located in “all countries outside the United Kingdom”.
Presumably the fact that the story says “will say” is because the story was based on a press release issued before the speech happened.
But sources at the event itself have told Bright Green that he said no such thing. And they were listening pretty carefully.
There’s an obvious reason why he didn’t say it: the comments are idiotic. The implication from Better Together is that Scotland would only have access to 1% of lottery money because that’s the current share that goes to projects overseas. Yet this rational would only work if Scots themselves contributed nothing to the lottery: it is based on the assumption that all of the money spent in Scotland by the lottery is raised in the rest of the UK. Of course, in fact, Scots do buy lottery tickets.
The SNP White Paper suggests that they would like to continue to operate a shared lottery across the old UK. But if the rest of the UK refused to participate, then, of course, the Scots could, if they wanted, choose to set up their own lottery.
Had Mr Darling actually made the comments as reported in the Telegraph, the senior voluntary sector figure told me, he would have been “ripped to shreds” by charity managers who understand that these statements are simply idiotic fear mongering. So, instead, he merely put the comments in a release to friendly journalist, who seem to have published them without questioning. Saying he was going to say them was easier than, you know, saying them to a room full of people who aren’t friendly journalists.
This isn’t the first time this week that the Better Together campaign has shouted “boo” then run away before anyone could ask them why. This week, George Osborne flew to Scotland to give a speech on currency. Bernard Ponsenby, political editor of STV, signed off his report on the speech with quite an extraordinary insight into the total failure of the No side to be accountable. He said
“the Chancellor’s speech… was not the subject of rigorous media scrutiny. Today the Chancellor only took three questions from journalists. Last Friday the Prime Minister made a speech. There was no broadcast interview on its contents. A few weeks ago, the foreign secretary made a flying visit. There was no broadcast interview by the Foreign Secretary for this channel.
“STV News wanted to put a few questions to the Chancellor. We attempted to ask a few questions as he left. His car moved from the front door of the hotel to a side entrance as his press team appeared to want to shepherd him away without taking any further questions. Eventually, after much too-ing and fro-ing, he emerged, flanked by advisers.”
The question “Chancellor, how much is this decision today going to cost businesses in England” went unanswered.
Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems understandably demand serious answers from those of us who support independence. But they don’t hold themselves to the same standards. While they are more than happy to fear monger through the pages of friendly papers you can tell the confidence they have in their arguments by their reticence to answer for them in public, or to say them to the faces of the people who know what they’re talking about.
Update: Third Sector Yes have got in touch with the following quote:
People should be prepared to back up their media claims with genuine and open discussion with the relevant experts, and be prepared to have their claims challenged. We certainly believe he would have received little support amongst third sector experts for his reported views.’.
To conclude, Joe Biden has a message for Better Together.