Was it Philip Hammond who told the Guardian that Britain would discuss a currency union with an independent Scotland? Fleet Street is asking that question after the Defence Secretary said:
‘There will be nothing non-negotiable; everything will be on the table... You can't go into any negotiation with things that are non-negotiable. You can go with things you intend to make your principal objectives in a negotiation and, when you have issues about which you are not prepared to be flexible, invariably you have to give way on other things in order to achieve your objectives.’
Downing Street has said that the Defence Secretary was speaking as the Defence Secretary; but, even so, Hammond is still at odds with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, who told Herald Scotland that there is ‘no deal to be done’ over Trident.
This disagreement is more damaging to the ‘No’ campaign than the Guardian’s story because it is ‘on the record’ proof that the government is split on how to approach the Scottish referendum campaign.
Politics is the business of making and winning arguments. An argument has no hope of success unless a line is agreed upon and pursued. Ground can be given, but only when sufficient stress has been caused by the other side. The ‘No’ campaign is giving ground without Alex Salmond even having to draw breath.
This episode demonstrates, once again, that there is a clear lack of political grip at the heart of government. Compare the mixed messages from Whitehall with the clarity of the City and financial institutions in Scotland. BP, BAE, Standard Chartered and others have all independently expressed their concerns about a ‘yes’ vote; yet somehow the Unionists have failed to capitalise. Some senior figures in the City are now privately hoping that Scottish voters have been lying to pollsters about their intentions; hardly a shining endorsement of the Powers That Be.