By Martin Kelly
Respected former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Sir George Mathewson has expressed his anger over the way information on the independence referendum is being distorted.
Sir George has spoken out after UK Chancellor George Osborne visited Scotland this week and claimed the rest of the former UK would not want an independent Scotland to share the pound.

In an interview with the Times newspaper, the highly respected former banking giant criticised the current UK Chancellor and former Labour Chancellors Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown.

“I cannot understand why the sterling zone would not wish to have the revenues from North Sea oil and the benefits of all the other Scottish exports, such as whisky, to support the currency," he told the Times. “It’s one failed Chancellor, George Osborne, adopting the same tactics of another failed Chancellor, Gordon Brown, seeking to influence opinion by saying: ‘Let’s use fear.’

“This kind of tactic will not work. To have one more snooty English person coming up and telling us how things are going to be ... in most parts of Scotland, it won’t be all that meaningful."

Responding to arguments that an independent Scotland would not have a great deal of influence over Bank of England policies, he said:

"We might have a scintilla more influence than we have at the moment. But then, at the moment, we’ve no influence at all."

Sir George poured scorn on suggestions that an independent Scotland would not be better off and dismissed claims over EU membership and interest rates as "side issues".

"We’ve got the UK, the most in-debt country almost, in the whole world — and somehow it’s a disaster for Scotland to have its own economic government?  These are almost side issues and they’re based on fear.  These things will be solved and worked out in due process and due time, and if it’s the Bank of England currently with effective control over the interest rate ... that’s the way it is at the moment."

Sir George was scathing of another former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling saying his claim that an independent Scotland could not have coped with the collapse of HBOS and RBS, had "forever coloured him in my eyes”.

He said. "The reason RBS was bailed out and HBOS was bailed out is because the whole UK economy was threatened.  You don’t bail out banks because of where their head office is, or because of what their name is; you bail out a bank because if you don’t, your economy is going to go down the tube."

Sir George said there was no such thing as a national bank and pointed out that almost all of RBS business in the UK had been carried out in London by Nat West.

"It’s taken a long time for people to understand that.  RBS’s head office is in Edinburgh, but 95 per cent its business was done in London.  NatWest was a subsidiary of RBS. Who owns a bank doesn’t make any difference; it’s what it does."

The banking giant also blamed decades of Labour party control over Scotland for the emergence of a ‘dependency culture’.

"We would be better off blaming ourselves than blaming England for every failure or inadequacy.  I believe that Scotland has, over the last century, been developed as a fiefdom of the Labour Party and a dependency culture, and we have seen less of that since Alex Salmond took control - and that can only be for the good."

Anger and Frustration

Sir George’s intervention is evidence of a growing frustration at the way the independence referendum is being presented to the Scottish public by a pro-Union dominated media.

Banner headlines followed the UK Chancellor’s visit to Scotland to promote the UK Treasury report which contained claims which had little or no merit, with some media professionals suggesting Scotland could be forced to adopt the euro.

There is also growing anger at the presentation of various pro-Union claims over independence by BBC Scotland which appears unwilling to provide mature and independent analysis of many of the claims despite providing saturation coverage of each scare.

Friday saw another attack on independence with pensions being used in order to present as "uncertain" something which the Scottish government insisted was straightforward as demonstrated by the cross border agreement between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.  An official Scottish government statement on cross border pension agreements was truncated in Radio Scotland broadcasts in order to remove the reference to Ireland.

BBC Radio Scotland presenter Brian Taylor was also forced to defend the pro-Union make-up of his Friday afternoon debate which discussed pensions and currency in an independent Scotland by claiming the panellists were not debating independence but were only discussing "general politics".

Mr Taylor’s response followed criticism by an audience member who asked why the panel consisted of three pro-Union guests and only one pro-independence guest.

[Newsnet comment – The intervention of Sir George Mathewson into the debate and his obvious frustration at the way the relative arguments are being presented highlights a problem that Newsnet Scotland has been pursuing since we first appeared in 2009.

There is nothing can be done about newspapers – they are private businesses and are fully entitled to present news as they see fit.  BBC Scotland on the other hand is funded by us.  It terms of its presentation of the referendum debate, it is now a running sore and has long since dropped any pretence of impartiality and abandoned its remit, which is to inform. 

The refusal this week by Radio Scotland presenter Hayley Millar to question Alistair Darling on the Ian Taylor donation was in keeping with the damage limitation approach to the No campaign adopted by the broadcaster.  The side-lining of the highly professional Isabel Fraser in favour of less capable Andrew Kerr follows a very public attack on Ms Fraser’s integrity by a Labour MP.

Newsnet Scotland would urge people to attend the Glasgow rally on Saturday May 18th organised by the bard2014 group, which calls for balance from our broadcasters, if they want to apply pressure to the BBC.]


# maisiedotts 2013-04-27 09:08
WTG Sir George! I hope that's another YES vote we can count on? We need a lot more like Sir George Mathewson to 'come out' of the business woodwork.

It is also a huge slap in the face for "Scottish" Labour!
# Dances With Haggis 1320 2013-04-27 10:55
Sir George has been an Indy supporter for quite a few years
# Dances With Haggis 1320 2013-04-28 00:51
Scottish independence gets boost from Hong Kong's money markets
Exchange booths rate Scottish pound higher than English notes, cheering independence backers amid fight with London on currency
# IXL 2013-04-27 12:41
George Mathewson and his wife were both members of Banchory Branch SNP around 1979 and in fact George canvassed on eve of 79 election with me :-)
# ds12 2013-04-27 09:23
Just listened to Good morning Scotland and they had someone from Hull university on. He said that there was no reason Scotland could not be in a sterling zone and that it would help what was left of the UK.

Interestingly though he also said that he felt it would be to Scotland's advantage to have our own currency as the £ was in such a mess.

This was then discussed with Iain Macwhirter and Angus Macleod.

Both felt the SNP were not getting their message across.

Macwhirter sort of agreed that the press were blocking positive stories however Macleod found this funny and laughed in a sort of "who me" way.

To him its a joke. It doesn't matter if their unionist stories are misleading they are only going to go with one side.
# springster 2013-04-27 09:32
Good to see someone of Mr Mathewson's stature highlighting the misinformation that is being peddled by people who are doing themselves, their profession and indeed their own country no favours.

I note that Bella Caledonia have published the article from Mark Piggott, who is one of the organisers of the balanced debate rally. The article has been well received and I make no apologies for urging people to join Mark in Glasgow on May 18th at 12:30pm as we march in support of a balanced debate.
# Lucas 2013-04-27 10:35
Angus Macleod's jovial old Tory uncle act on Saturdays is becoming very old indeed. Can't there be other voices introduced from time to time?
# Diabloandco 2013-04-27 10:38
Just how old is he ?
Last time I saw him in the flesh I thought he was well past retiral age and even older than me!
# Adrian B 2013-04-27 10:37
Macwhirter sort of agreed that the press were blocking positive stories however Macleod found this funny and laughed in a sort of "who me" way

Angus MacLeod was promoted to Editor of the Times in Scotland only two days ago. He hasn't had editorial control for very long as yet. Lets see how he does from now on, two days isn't very long to form a long term opinion on balanced reporting from a single paper.
# clootie 2013-04-27 11:19
Good to see an article which gives some balance to a topic. I'm off now to forward it to others. Thanks again newsnet for renewing my faith in achieving a YES vote.

The unionist propaganda machine is having a harder time misleading the public now.
# call me dave 2013-04-27 11:34
I have expectations from McLeod and look forward to some positive stuff in the future.

As I said yesterday, visiting folk in Oban, and had the misfortune to be confronted unexpectedly by a man thrusting a leaflet into my hand outside Tesco's.
Shock horror to find it was a 'Better Together' issue. There were three of them, all looked well past 70 years, I gave him it back and suggested that he and his friends started finding out the truth and asked if he agreed with the dodgy donation. "What do you mean?" he said and pointed to my partner "Your better together aren't you"

"Aye" I said "But I don't abuse her or limit her pocket money"

We parted company, it all went over his head!

My partners parents are just as bad, Sunday post & the BBC.
Going to be a long weekend I'm afraid.
# ogan86 2013-04-27 11:36

I have just received a text message from "BetterTog", which addresses me by my first name and asks "What do you think about leaving the UK? Do you agree that we are stronger together? There will be a referendum on Scottish independence. Please tell us your views via or text UKOK to 64446".

The URL above doesn't work, and I'm not about to send a reply back. I'm rather annoyed they managed to get hold of my mobile number as well as my name. Of course it could be just spam, but I wonder who actually sent it...

Has anybody else received a text like this?

[Admin - The team have been made aware of text messages being sent to mobile phones that address the owner of the account by that person's first name.]
# mountaincadre 2013-04-27 15:43
Me to.
# Coinneach 2013-04-27 11:37
Do you think the Labour Truth team might be an offshoot of the republican truthers in the states.
# Early Ball 2013-04-27 13:57
Funnily enough Coinneach I was just thinking there is an American influence in Labour.

Half of Murphy's tweets are about the military and noticed wee Dougie has started to do this as well.
# ButeHouse 2013-04-27 11:58
Giant indeed, they don't come much bigger than Sir George Mathewson. His input is to be very welcome indeed, especially on this subject. His voice will not easily be ignored.

I think a simplified version of what he is saying would make a very good Party Political Broadcast.

He looks credible, sounds credible and of course very much is credible. It would do Alex and YES no harm at all to be backed by Sir George as he calls for the BBC and others to play the game and tell the truth.

# Will C 2013-04-27 12:04
I wonder how they will distort this? Or is this a case of "chiels are facts that winnae ding"? Oil firm to invest $20 billion in the North Sea over the next five years.
# maisiedotts 2013-04-27 12:08
O/T Mary Lockhart Co-op Party leader resigns
# call me dave 2013-04-27 12:42
Well done Mary.

Pushed or jumped doesn't matter she is better off without them if she has to toe a line against her principles.

My story earlier re: better together at Oban.
Quite a few folk wrinkling noses and declining the message from the three unionists. ( should have said before)
# Old Smokey 2013-04-27 15:27
I loved the way the Labour/Cooperative phrased their statement, typical 'politburo' speak
# Al Ghaf 2013-04-27 13:37
Ah yes, the kiddy fiddling, discredited BBC. Who tell us that they need not be impartial as we are not in the run up to an election. Yet deny our First Minister to comment on the rugby because of the "politically charged environment in Scotland"
A shite parochial, amateur outfit who cower and connive to fail us all.
# millie 2013-04-27 16:07
Re: Isabel Fraser-

Several weeks ago the Sunday Politics Scotland programme with Andrew Kerr had an item on equal gender representation in the workplace/ institutions.

The irony will not have been lost on many females that the presenters of ‘all’ BBC Scotland TV political ‘interview/analysis’ programmes are male. That is 100% male representation in BBC Scotland.

STV has 50/50 representation, albeit on one political programme.

Currently BBC in Scotland has 3 (TV) political interview/analysis based programmes.

These ‘have’ been presented by:
Gordon Brewer, Andrew Kerr, David Henderson (occasionally), Glen Campbell, Gary Robertson (occasionally), James Cook (occasionally), Douglas Fraser- (online/ UK network interviews), Brian Taylor- (Party Conference leaders’ interviews,).

# millie 2013-04-27 16:25
The sole female ‘fronting’ an in-depth BBC TV political programme ‘was’ Isabel Fraser – now on radio only.

Is the BBC in Scotland seriously suggesting that it has a dearth of female employees with the necessary skills to front these programmes? – in 2013?
# Corm 2013-04-29 16:42
They would just stick Sally Magnusson or Jackie Bird on to balance that.
# MacSenex 2013-04-27 17:28
If confronted by a BTG campaigner better to tell them you are instinctively unionist but disgusted by their tactics on eg taking dodgy money to back them so am now undecided.

The sight of their faces is something to behold.
# Macart 2013-04-27 19:16
Outstanding! Well said Sir George and about time some of the bigger names in the finance and business world get loud about Osborne's threats.
# cynicalHighlander 2013-04-28 09:30
Scottish independence gets boost from Hong Kong's money markets:

But the Scottish nationalists got an unlikely boost when currency exchange company Mega Foreign Exchange listed the Scottish pound in its exchange rates, valuing it higher than the English pound. Yesterday it was offering HK$11.50 for a Scottish pound but HK$11.30 for an English one.

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