The Herald carries a page two article today Darling lays into Salmond over his RBS judgment, and a featured interview with Anne Simpson and Darling on page 12. To say that Anne Simpson’s introduction to her piece is a little partial is probably to understate the case.
“ … Alistair Darling is not someone given to social affectations. Candour not coyness defines him. Yet why is this proud Scot, former chancellor of the Exchequer and committed fiscal Unionist so reluctant to spearhead a campaign against the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?
“So far Alex Salmond has steered the independence argument exactly to his liking. Meanwhile those who disagree with the First Minister’s plan for radical amputation are without a central figure whose gravitas could pull together a robust opposition.”"... the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?"
What, Anne – no approving words on the First Minister’s candour, no plaudits for him as a proud Scot? No recognition that in every word, every policy statement, every media interview, the First Minister makes it clear that his vision for independence and a social union with the rest of the UK after independence is the very reverse of a ‘radical amputation’?
Well, moving on, let’s take a look at ‘candour not coyness’ Darling on ABN Amro -
In 2007 ABN Amro was acquired, in what was at that time the biggest bank takeover in history, by a consortium made up of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Fortis bank and Banco Santander. Here’s what Alistair Darling said in his memoirs about what happened at the end of 2007, just before 2008, the year when the world’s banking system fell apart.
On a Saturday morning, just before Christmas 2007, I answered the door at my home in Edinburgh. There on the doorstep was Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of RBS, holding a gift-wrapped panettone.
Although it would mean not having my private secretary with me, I felt entirely relaxed about seeing him alone, at home. I was also intrigued. I had seen other CEOs of the banks alone in the past – none of this was abnormal – but I knew that his asking to see me in private could only mean that he was worried about something.
I had a great deal of sympathy with what Fred Goodwin was saying, but I asked the question: why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern? His answer was that they felt RBS didn't have sufficient capital. I asked whether he was comfortable that RBS did have sufficient capital, and his response was that he felt that it did. And yet I was worried. It occurred to me that Sir Fred had not come just as a shop steward for his colleagues. He would not admit it, but I sensed that RBS, which until that time had seemed invincible, its directors and senior staff exuding confidence verging on arrogance, was in more trouble than we had thought.
Does this sound like a new Chancellor who had anticipated anything bad in relation to RBS? His pal Fred Goodwin, the CEO of RBS. “which until that time had seemed invincible” had just popped in with a panettone. He asks Fred the Shred “why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern?” Suddenly, the presence of neighbour Fred and his gift-wrapped panettone worries him.
This is the man who criticises Alex Salmond for supporting the ABN Amro deal. One might reasonably assume that Alistair Darling had a helluva lot more information about the ABN Amro deal and his pal Fred than Alex Salmond did, but in December 2007, the end of the year in which the deal was concluded. just before the world fell apart in 2008, he gets belatedly worried about Fred, RBS and his gift-wrapped panettone?
As the SNP commented after Darling ‘criticisms’ -
“This is a laughable attempt to rewrite history by Alistair Darling. He was the Chancellor responsible for banking regulation and its failure at the critical time, and he was the Chancellor responsible for the signing off of the ABN Amro deal.
“Labour gave Fred Goodwin his knighthood, and Mr. Darling’s contacts with Fred Goodwin were far more extensive than the First Minister’s. Fred Goodwin was an adviser to Alistair Darling as chancellor, and was still a member of a key Treasury body advising Labour months after the banking crisis and quitting RBS.”
Here is ‘proud Scot’, ‘candour not coyness’ Darling talking to Isabel Fraser very recently. Judge for your self - Alistair Darling -- naive, disingenuous, or just woefully unprepared for Isabel Fraser?
As for Darling’s defining quote, the one used to headline the Anne Simpson interview -
“Separation means that once you go, you go. You can’t come back.”
Leaving aside the banality of the statement, it is undoubtedly true – and none of the countries who ‘separated’, or rather secured their independence from Britain over the centuries have ever shown the least signs of wanting to come back …