Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Scotland

As a Professor of Theoretical Computer Science, I have few qualifications that relate to the debate over independence for Scotland. But I do have one: like all who work in computing, I am familiar with FUD.

From The Jargon File:
FUD: /fuhd/, n.
Defined by Gene Amdahl after he left IBM to found his own company: “FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering [Amdahl] products.” The idea, of course, was to persuade them to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software. After 1990 the term FUD was associated increasingly frequently with Microsoft, and has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.
Much FUD has been slung by the opponents of independence.

The opening salvo was Jose Manuel Barroso's announcement, in December 2012, that an independent Scotland could not presume admission to the EU. Really? As Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “No serious person can argue that it is anything other than in the interests of the EU to keep Scotland in continuous membership”.  Barroso's statement was pure FUD (or bunkum), prompted by Cameron and by Spain's concern that Scottish independence might strengthen Basque aspirations.

Another example is when George Osborne and Danny Alexander reiterated, in April and November 2013, that Scotland could not rely on England agreeing to a currency union. Really? Yet even Alisdair Darling, head of Better Together, had aleady admitted in January 2013 that “Of course, it would be desirable to have a currency union... If you have independence, or separation, of course a currency union is logical.”  Alexander's and Osborne's statements don't go so far as to rule out monetary union; their purpose is to trowel FUD over the future of Scotland.

And when the SNP released its White Paper this month, it was another occasion for opponents to cast aspersions. Danny Alexander immediately claimed a £1.6 billion gap in funding. Really? Finance Secretary John Swinney responded “The No campaign's numbers are all over the place. If we go back to September, they were alleging a £32bn black hole in the finances of an independent Scotland. That came down in November to £10bn and we have now got a claim of £1.6bn. When you look at the Treasury analysis there is no account taken of the positive impact on the economy of any of the measures we have set out to boost growth within the Scottish economy.” Critics of the White Paper need not engage seriously with its premises. Spreading FUD is more effective.

Which is not to say that the future is certain. Any large change such as independence of necessity makes the future harder to predict. But we can see some consequences of independence clearly. We will avoid the £25bn cost of Trident. We will maintain free tuition for students, free prescriptions under the NHS, and free nursing for the elderly, benefits Scots enjoy and the English are denied, and which without independence we will face pressure to revoke. We will be free to maneuver in an uncertain future based on the vision of the Scots rather than the conservatism of the Tories.

Let's examine our choices clearly, and recognise FUD for what it is: the way the Powers That Be, whether IBM, Microsoft, or the UK Government, seek to keep others from considering better alternatives.

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Regarding EU membership, are you really sure that GB will stay in the EU?

Regarding the currency union, why would you want it? Have the Euro experience not shown why separate countries should avoid a common currency.

That said, I live in neither Scotland nor Britain and have no idea if Scottish independence is a good or bad idea.
Not really ok to complain about FUD from the Nos and then spread FUD yourself:

"We will maintain free tuition for students, free prescriptions under the NHS, and free nursing for the elderly, benefits Scots enjoy and the English are denied, and which without independence we will face pressure to revoke"

I've not heard the slightest hint from any source, that these things are at risk under the Union: you know, the Union in which these things were established. This is FUD, pure and simple.

On the general tenet of the post, I agree that there has been some FUD from the Nos and it's contemptible. But I'm sorry not to see you agreeing with me that the only reaction to the two campaigns so far has to be "a plague on both your houses." For the Yeses, I didn't appreciate the first minister lying about taking legal advice on EU membership, nor did I appreciate the deputy first minister fantasising that under independence and in the EU, somehow Scotland could charge fees to RUK students.
I had in mind specific reasons for two of the three spectres I raise. Free tuition: there is much discussion of how Scottish universities will be forced to follow English in requiring tuition (much from the Scottish Universities themselves). Free prescriptions: Many years ago, I listened to an episode of Any Answers, where all of the callers said, in effect "It's not fair that Scots get better health care, they should be reduced to the level of the English". I expected at least one to say "The English should be raised to the levels of the Scots", but not one did. My claim about free nursing was by extrapolation from the reaction to health care.

Polls show many English would prefer Scots to secede because they believe the Scots receive an unfair subsidy. It seems reasonable to extrapolate that will lead to pressure of the kind I suggest.

Maybe take more care before you accuse folk of making things up?

And while I agree that politicians on both sides of the campaign don't always speak the unvarnished truth, I don't think that implies the only response is 'a pox on both your houses'. That would imply inaction is the only response to any call for change.
I never accused you of making it up. If I had that would be an accusation of lying. The point of FUD is not that it is made up but that it might be true.

For example, you *might* be right that say free tuition would go. But it very much *might* be the case that currency union would not happen.

And indeed the universal response by those who spread FUD is that the FUD they are spreading *might* be true. A pity you fell into that trap.

And where did I say that people should be inactive in response to the appalling campaign from both sides? Obviously the response is to engage constructively.

I foresee significant economic problems ahead for both the UK and Scotland. I believe that Scotland will be in a better position to deal with those problems on its own than in conjunction with the UK. Scotland on its own has generally spent less than it earns, while the UK spends more than it earns. Both are predicted to spend more than they earn in coming years, but Scotland less than the UK as a whole. We must work to put the economy on an even keel, but I believe Scotland is an a better position to do it on its own than if roped to the UK. Figures here.

Is that FUD or constructive engagement? You decide.
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