Coffee House

Philip Hammond and David Mundell expose lack of political grip at heart of government

14 April 2014

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.

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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.

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Show comments
  • Your Correspondent

    Trident will be gone in the next few years, the subs are rapidly reaching the end of their service life and there isn’t a bat in hell’s chance that any future parliament will vote for a replacement. So, the only really tricky question is where should it be scrapped; England or Scotland?

  • rod robertson

    Standard Life you muppet

  • rod robertson

    In true London Bubble fashion Mr Blackburn has total knowledge of his subject

    “Compare the mixed messages from Whitehall with the clarity of the City and financial institutions in Scotland. BP, BAE, Standard Chartered and others”

    Standard Chartered??? is this Tony Blackburn ??
    You do know where Scotland is I trust.
    such is the complete incompetence of most things from London that forces us Scots to say bye bye .

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Only a politician could say that everything is negotiable.

  • asalord

    Unionists can’t even agree amongst themselves.
    Thank god Scotland will soon regain its independence.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Faced with the apparently uncontrollable idiocy of people like Hammond, the UK Parliament should quickly pass an Act saying that if the Scots vote for Scotland to leave the UK then any proposal for a continuing currency union would have to be approved by a referendum in the rest of the UK.

  • allymax bruce

    ‘Was it Philip Hammond who told the Guardian that Britain would discuss a currency union with an independent Scotland?’ (David Blackburn).

  • manonthebus

    Utter nonsense. Certain things are bound to be non-negotiable because both Alex Salmond and the UK government have stated this already. Alex Salmond will not allow a nuclear deterrent to be based in Scotland. He has said this many times. The UK Treasury will not allow Scotland to use the BoE as lender of last resort to an independent Scotland. Both the Treasury and George Osborne have stated this. Alex Salmond will not allow any taxes from North Seal Oil and Gas drawn from with Scotland’s extended borders to go anywhere except into his coffers. There are more, I’m sure.

  • Smithersjones2013

    If this Goverment has proved anything it is that the Tories are an ill-disciplined, politically inadequate, divided dysfunctional broken party. Only a ‘swivel-eyed nutter’ (using Cameroon parlance) would vote for them.

    • manonthebus

      Government, not goverment.

  • Malcolm McCandless

    BP are also now split over Scottish independence.

    BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said at a shareholders meeting last week that Scottish independence would not have any long term implications for the company operating in the North Sea. This directly contradicts the comments of BP CEO Bob Dudley earlier this year.

    Scots are not bowing to the scares, the threats and smears emanating from our supposed betters at Westminster, Fleet Street and even the City. The overall trend in the polls is not illusory, more and more Scots are indicating they will vote YES. The union is in great peril because the pro-union campaign has got its strategy all wrong.

    What to do, ramp up the fear or treat Scots with more respect? What are the chances it will be the latter?

    • Darnell Jackson

      Good luck. I hope you all vote to go it alone.

      • hoddles

        Thank you.

    • @PhilKean1

      And this from a company that thought it wise to invest billions of pounds in Russia.

      • allymax bruce

        They made billions from investing in Russia. They are about to do it again.

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      Dudley is the fool that got BP into bed with some of the worst elements among the Russians.

  • Mynydd

    I quote “there is a clear lack of political grip at the heart of government” more importantly it could also read as: there is a clear lack of leadership grip at the heart of government. In Mr Cameron we have a Prime Minister who is either on an overseas jolly, or on a photo shoot in a shop, building site you name it he’s been there. When is he in the office leading and controlling his team, it seem never. I understand he is now on an overseas holiday again. When the cats away the mice will play.

  • FF42

    I agree with Mr Hammond that everything is negotiable. The question is, would rUK be willing to trade a currency union with an independent Scotland, that nobody in would be rUK apparently thinks is a good idea, against permission to retain nuclear weapons in Scotland, that the Scottish Government apparently is dead against?

    Maybe the Defence Minister is only concerned about his departmental issues and doesn’t see the bigger picture? In Scotland we want to know what currency we might end up. This doesn’t make it any clearer.

    • @PhilKean1

      Well it can NOT be Sterling !

      You want Sterling, stay in the UK. Remember that Salmond and a lot of Scots were once enthusiastic advocates of joining the Euro. What ever happened to that idea?

      And why should the English and Welsh people be permanently inflicted with having Socialist Scottish Governments who’d influence the rest of the UK’s economic management and risk the currency’s credibility?

      • hoddles

        “You want Sterling, stay in the UK.” You want Trident and Europe’s biggest nuclear stockpile. Find somewhere in rUK for them – you’ve got about 24 months starting now. Good luck, you’ll need it.

  • MirthaTidville

    Philip Hammond told the Guardian?…now that`s something no one should ever do..

  • starfish

    Depends on the actual question asked – which is not at the link
    Seems to me generally he is right, you do not go into negotiations with ‘un-negotiables’, you have a clear idea of your priorities and a trade space

    • HookesLaw

      Its right to say that nothing should be ‘un-negotiable’ But what concession then could Scotland make to persuade me to go in to a currency union? Are the Nats considering that?
      Personally if Scotland were silly enough to vote YES then they can use the pound to their hearts content. But not as part of a currency union. Anyway if any independent Scotland wanted to join the EU then it would have to use the Euro.

      • starfish

        Suppose the SNP agreed that the proceeds of North Sea oil would be a common resource and reduce the financial risk of a currency union….?
        Who knows what deals may be struck after a yes vote
        The peculiar thing is no-one seems to question a ridiculously short timetable for unravelling Scotland from the rest of the UK

        • FF42

          I question a short time frame, As with real divorces, this one promises to be messy and expensive.

  • HookesLaw

    If Scotland becomes independent we will have to move Trident. That will require negotiations. Hammond also pointed out – ‘Removing nuclear weapons from Scotland will not take up to five years as the SNP promises, but 10 years’

    Hammond also said
    ‘The UK Government is very clear that if the Scottish people express the will to go down this route, then we will engage with them and negotiate with them in good faith.
    But it does not mean we roll over and say take what you want: there has got to be a negotiation, there’s got to be a fair conclusion and a fair settlement. How long that will take depends on the negotiating stance of the other side.
    My experience of negotiating things is that if you decide you have got to get the negotiations concluded by a certain date, you can always do it but you end up giving things away. No one sensible would ever enter a negotiation saying: ‘I have to have this deal done by X date.’

    • starfish

      Exactly – better expressed than my post!
      Seems to me that the media are now manufacturing difficulties and identifying differences that simply do not exist – unless they quote out of context

      • HookesLaw

        The media has its own agenda. Plus most people in it are not very intelligent.

        • Wessex Man

          Pots kettles black Hooky baby, you are so into Hammond and the tardy Tories you don’t even keep up. We now find that they aircraft they intend putting on the unfinished Carrier can’t be armed, this is exactly why the Tories, Hammond and you are such a laughing stock. I personally find with a bully that if you sit there and outstare you can. no Sterling curency union, which Salmond referred to as a Milstone around Scotland’s neck, so lets no burden them with it!

  • OskarMatzerath

    There is also a lack of political grip at The Spectator: the Scottish Secretary is Alastair Carmichael, not David Mundell.

    • Kerr Mudgeon

      Mundell reports to Carmichael as parliamentary under-secretary, the title ascribed to him in the article.

      • Maidmarrion

        And both of them are useless to Scotland.

  • @PhilKean1

    The madness of putting an accountant in charge of Britain’s defence.

    For people who understand about such matters, it is enough to make us weep. Here it is in simple form.

    (1) – Why buy an expensive, over-able American drone when Britain is fully capable of building her own?
    (2) – Hypothetically, Just ONE WEEK after I had arranged a concept and design conference with a UK air-frame and avionics manufacturers and – using existing technology and well within the budget allocated for the U.S. purchase – we would have had the basis for taking forward a design and requirement that could have been in service within 2 years.
    (3) – But because our defence secretary’s knowledge of such matters is limited he immediately runs to whomever has available or is working on a system which will satisfy Britain’s need.
    (4) – There is no substitute for eyes in the sky. This will never change. A drone on it’s own can never do the job of sea search and rescue missions.
    (5) – So again, why buy the expensive American P8? Why, when all we need is a long-range platform that can loiter and accommodate at least 4 observer and electronic surveillance crew – do they not buy off-the-shelf executive jets and install the necessary equipment in them?

    I have never known such a mess being made of Britain’s defence needs. Not since Labour ditched our vital aircraft carriers have we seen such irresponsibility and incompetence.

    The person we need to be our defence Minister needs not only to have a good knowledge of what Britain needs in terms of defence assets, he must also have a knowledge of engineering and defence equipment and understand that, sometimes, it isn’t always necessary to buy a capability that is more than we would ever need, but it is ALWAYS important to procure assets in a way which saves money and assists UK technology and manufacturing.

    • HookesLaw

      ‘buy off-the-shelf executive jets’ – thanks for proving you’re an idiot.
      Plus your attack on Hammond is facile in the extreme.

      • MirthaTidville

        You never learn Hooky, just shout your mouth off…….Google the Raf Sentinel, its one of the few spy planes we have, based on a `Global Express` executive jet which are bought and then adapted…and the attack on Hammond was accurate. you really are the gift that keeps on giving

        • @PhilKean1

          To sort of paraphrase Gordon Brown, Hooky opposes for opposition’s sake :-)

          • Kitty MLB

            Hooky is a loyal Cameroon soldier, whilst all others fall by the
            wayside, Hooky will not, loyal to the end..

            • @PhilKean1

              A loyal Soldier?

              More like a blindly-loyal kamikaze pilot !

            • Alexandrovich

              …’til all but he had fled.

        • starfish

          That will be the Global Express aircraft built in Canada which was modified and radar systems installed by Raytheon Systems, a US defence contractor
          Mind you it has Rolls Royce engines, albeit built in Germany
          Yep a stunning example of the British defence industry

      • Bluesman_1


      • Smithersjones2013

        And if sacked for his ill-discipline would Hammonnd become one of your thick nutjob Tory backbenchers? I assume his predecessor has already joined that hallowed group….

        • Makroon

          His predecessor is a much more likely candidate for suggesting “a deal could be done”.

    • starfish

      Almost as mad as putting people in charge who believe British defence contractors are a)competent, b)will deliver c) can deliver projects despite large numbers of examples where they have not
      It is all very well professing that you can design/deliver such devices, the point is you have not, you are not prepared to put PV money into developing one and the US have already done it and fielded it.

      • @PhilKean1

        They can when Governments don’t keep changing their mind and military top brass keep their noses out and stop interfering.

        The top brass have a sort of boyish attitude to defence assets, referring to them as “bits of kit”. A description that highlights their eagerness to have gear that does fancy stuff, rather than getting what will do the job for the right price.

        • starfish

          Pity you stuff your business development teams and corporate boards with them then

    • MichtyMe

      Alternatively the MOD could ask the friendly wee Norwegians to keep a lookout for us, they have a squadron of American P3’s for marine surveillance and anti submarine or even request Alex Salmond’s Government which operates two maritime surveillance aircraft to help.

      • @PhilKean1

        It beggars belief that an island, maritime nation with world-wide interests and a coastline to protect, that has been NATO’s second biggest player and is a P5 member, has divested itself of her vital maritime air-patrol capability.

        Seriously, if there were not already 10 good reasons to vote against Cameron !

        • MichtyMe

          And the Norwegians had the capacity to contribute marine surveillance assistance to help combat Somali piracy.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Unfortunately our Navy and aerospace maritime assets have gone the way of the Army between the wars. They have been pared down and allowed to atrophy in the belief that they are somehow unnecessary when world events suggest the exact opposite.

          Then in truly incomprehensible ‘Through The Looking Glass’ fashion Cameron and Co rattle the sabre with defence assets they don’t have at the same time as shovelling huge amounts of cash overseas that could have been used to fund them.

          • allymax bruce

            “They [Navy Army] have been pared down and allowed to atrophy in the belief that they are somehow unnecessary when world events suggest the exact opposite.”

            Hmm, doesn’t that make you think that Westminster are thinking beyond the next immediate ‘world events’? May-be, Col’, that Westminster have already ‘factored-in’ a major conflict, one of which will render a conclusion to ‘world events’, as such one that would accommodate said ”paring down’?
            Outside the box, Col’!

            • Colonel Mustard

              I doubt Westminster has that capacity to think ahead but let’s hope not.

              • allymax bruce

                Col’, thanks for your reply. However, it’s not Westminster doing ‘the think'(ing). That’s all done for them.
                *I see your point; my-bad for implicating the obverse!

        • starfish

          That is the way treaty organisations and shared defence works.
          The Norwegians have no nuclear subs, the Germans no aircraft carriers etc – NATO allows nations to pool their resources
          Maybe if we hadn’t shovelled £billions into a Nimrod upgrade debacle courtesy of BAE systems we would still have them

          • starfish

            That was of course after the £billion wasted on Nimwacs, also Bae
            Then the RAF were permitted to procure what they really wanted, the E3

    • @PhilKean1

      And another SERIOUSLY important reason why Scotland can’t share Sterling.

      Come that happy day when the Liberal-left’s influence on British politics is broken and we leave the EU, Scottish Socialists will oppose Britain’s exit on the basis of our shared use of Sterling, and because Scotland without the UK would have to renegotiate her terms of EU membership if they want to stay in – meaning they would have to join the Euro.

      This is an added complication that British democrats simply do not need.

      No, Scotland either joins the Euro now, or strikes up own currency.

      • Smithersjones2013


        • the viceroy’s gin

          There’s another part to this though. No matter how any of these “votes” turn out, the EUSSR will remain on course, to grow the borg. It will be easier to absorb all of Great Britain, in its entirety, if the EUSSR itself doesn’t recognize a portion of it on its own. If they acknowledge a split, it will only widen the split, between the 2 nations and between one/both of them and the EUSSR. The Brussels mobsters know all this.

          The EUSSR finds it quite easy to ignore the “votes”, in all cases. They will just remain on course, and override the “voters”, who don’t matter to them in any event.

          • allymax bruce

            rUK will be ‘absorb'(ed) into the ‘EUSSR’; when The City declares its own independence. Haven’t you noticed it is already a ‘security-walled City-State’?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Why would the Londonistan bubble want to join up with the EUSSR?

              That would be like Al Capone joining up with Bugs Moran.

              The bankster capos don’t care if everybody else around them is an EUSSR serf, they just want their cash flow left undisturbed.

              • allymax bruce

                They won’t; The City will declare Independence to avoid such a scenario. Then, rUK will be ‘absorbed’. Well, that’s my thinking.
                However, EU has many irons in the world’s fires; it may just be taking on too much, leve itself stretched, (World-Bank ‘distancing’ itself from IMF, ECB; and leave itself open to a takeover of Real Democracy by the incumbent Nation-States! There’s a few ‘games’ being played out. Isn’t International Relations exciting!

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  The Londonistan bubble can’t possibly push for independence. It would be the end of them. You’ve already got a populist movement grumbling and muttering out in the lands. Now let the poshboys stick their head above the parapets with talk of cutting loose from those unwashed. The pitchfork mob would settle this all in the usual fashion. People would come and pay to watch it all, too.

            • komment

              I think the term is ghetto.

      • MichtyMe

        Scotland would not be out of the EU nor in the Euro.

        • Denis_Cooper

          What that chap Avery said is part of what I’ve been telling all and sundry for some years.

          Because Scotland is already part of the EU – not a “member”, as Blair Jenkins claimed, and he must know that is not true – it would not be necessary for Scotland to go through the full Article 49 TEU accession procedure; instead Cameron could and would propose EU treaty amendments under Article 48 TEU – there would have to be EU treaty amendments so that Scotland became a member state in its own sovereign right, and at that point technically Salmond would have no legal standing to propose them, so it would be Cameron.

          The bit he missed out is that the required EU treaty changes would need the agreement of the governments and parliaments of all the other EU member states, and it is very unlikely that they would agree to do that without extracting a price from Scotland and possibly also from the continuing UK.

          • MichtyMe

            But to remove Scotland from the jurisdiction of the EU would also require the unanimous agreement of member states. So which is the most likely, continuity or unnecessary disruption when all agree that an object of the EU is to be inclusive as is possible.

            That chap Avery is not alone, there are plenty more like him, here is one more.


            • telemachus

              Jim Currie is a dangerous environmentalist and not to be trusted on that or anything else

            • Denis_Cooper

              No, there is no basis for a claim that all the member states would have to agree to Scotland no longer being part of the EU, in fact it would require no action at all by the EU or any of the other EU member states. Under the present treaties that would happen automatically the instant that an Act of the UK Parliament to terminate the 1707 Treaty of Union came into force, because Scotland would then no longer be part of the UK or any other EU member state and therefore under Articles 52 TEU and 355 TFEU the EU treaties would no longer apply to Scotland. And there would be no possibility of any fudge using secondary legislation to keep Scotland in the EU as a new member state, that would need treaty change. As I have pointed out before, the word “Scotland” does not appear anywhere in the present EU treaties, least of all in the list of High Contracting Parties, the member states, so there would be no avoiding treaty change to keep Scotland in the EU.

              • MichtyMe

                I do not accept that an act by the UK legislature can in itself exclude territory from the jurisdiction of the EU. Imagine if Westminster were to legislate to exclude from EU jurisdiction London or Dorset do you think that would automatically happen?

                • Denis_Cooper

                  The UK Parliament would pass an Act to dissolve the Union and thereby exclude Scotland from its own jurisdiction. That is what you want, isn’t it, that Scotland would become an independent sovereign state, and so thereafter none of the laws passed by the legislature of what was then a foreign country, the continuing UK, would apply to Scotland?

                  Among the many UK laws which presently apply to Scotland is the European Communities Act 1972, the introduction to which can be seen here:


                  I’ve ticked the box to bring up the geographical extent, which is E+W+S+NI, that is the whole of the present UK, and the introduction reads:

                  “An Act to make provision in connection with the enlargement of the European Communities to include the United Kingdom, together with (for certain purposes) the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar.”

                  If Scotland became independent then that “S” would have to be removed from all Acts of the UK Parliament where it presently appears, as none of them would still extend to Scotland, and that would include this one through which Scotland was made part of the EEC along with the rest of the UK when it, the UK, became an EEC member state.

                  Of course that original 1972 Act has subsequently been amended to implement the later treaties, as is shown throughout the Act, but it remains the basis upon which the EU treaties now apply to Scotland.

                  The UK Parliament is sovereign and it could certainly legislate to remove Scotland or London or Dorset from EU jurisdiction but not from its own jurisdiction, making any or all of them havens from EU laws, however the UK would then be in breach of its EU treaty obligations unless the present EU treaties were amended to give the UK the right to do that.

                  But that is not what you want, you want Scotland to be removed from the jurisdiction of the UK Parliament; and as Scotland is only part of the EU now by virtue of being part of the UK and subject to UK law that would necessarily mean that Scotland was automatically no longer part of the EU, unless the EU treaties were amended.

                  I guess that if it was not a case of the EU treaties but of some other treaty which had been made by the UK, let us say the NATO treaty, and the SNP didn’t want Scotland to continue to be bound by that treaty, then they would argue the opposite – that Scotland would automatically be free of that undesirable treaty, once it had become independent and was no longer part of the UK.

      • komment

        Scotland will be independent before you have your referendum on Europe, don’t blame us!!

  • @PhilKean1

    Wouldn’t surprise me. He has been pretty useless as Defence Secretary

    • Barakzai

      Agreed. And wasn’t he (ever-so-deniably) touting himself as a potential party leader not so long ago? He was beyond his ceiling as Chief Secretary, whatever HookesLaw says.

      • @PhilKean1

        Leader? Help us.

        When balancing the books takes precedence over maintaining a credible military deterrent – you just know he’s not the man for the job.

    • monty61

      Should be fired if it’s him.

      • @PhilKean1

        On the incompetence and irresponsibility scale, I would say that this misdemeanour comes some way down what other Cameron party Minister have done and still kept their jobs.

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