A man with more than Treasury interest in Scotland
Sir Nicholas McPherson is the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, or put another way, the Head of the Treasury. He briefed against the state. It is time for him to be told his position is temporary, pending a departure date. He is still at large, hence this call to collar the brat and cuff him.
Readers still angry at the dirty tricks the British Establishment employed to hook a sufficient number of Referendum voters away from Yes, will grit their teeth at the mention of his name. In the last tense days of the debate MacPherson’s department was responsible for issuing the false information that the Royal Bank of Scotland was planning to move to London in the event of a Yes vote. It was a lie.
In reality it was only moving their business registration, a brass plaque. The press release was designed to fool the unwary that the RBS was hot-footing from Hades North to Elysium South. It had the desired effect of increasing tension and sending hundreds of hacks to Scotland to demand of Alex Salmond a response to the loss of Scotland’s great bank – a bank 80% owned by the United Kingdom electorate.
That leak – confirmed the next morning to the London Stock Exchange by RBS, sent the bank’s shares tumbling overnight on the Asian markets. MacPherson’s defence was to say he was protecting the markets. Marks for prescience and good judgment – nil.
The decision to move their door sign, so to speak, was still under discussion when MacPherson’s mauraders released the fatal memo. Shocked at the malicious leak, Salmond called the RBS heads who confirmed they had not made a decision nor leaked any information.
And there’s more.
The Public Administration Select Committee’s report into civil service impartiality criticised Macpherson for publishing a letter to Chancellor George Osborne advising against a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK. According to the report, Macpherson’s decision to publish the letter “compromised the perceived impartiality of one of the UK’s most senior civil servants”.
MacPherson, belligerent and pompous, defended his decision saying it was to “reassure the markets”, a defence the committee rejected. That was disingenuous in the extreme. In a speech last January, MacPherson justified his action. He had published the advice “because I regarded it as my duty”.
It is not hard to see why Sir Nicholas stepped way out of line by throwing sacrosanct civil service impartiality out the window.
His family has considerable land interests in and around Plockton, Wester Ross.
As a side issue, but a very important one, Nicola Sturgeon’s administration must follow up on the promise to make transparent who owns what chunk of Scotland, and to make it much harder for land to change hands. Currently, it’s as easy as changing a tyre on a car.
Then there is the not inconsequential issue of the Treasury exaggerating ten fold and more the cost of institutional transition. The White Paper has it at a nominal sum. This was supported by a Cambridge professor (Donleavy) who was stunned to see his research exploited. He called MacPherson’s bluff. The good professor, knowing all the institutions Scotland needed existed for change, calculated a few million. MacPherson’s department turned that into billions. Another ‘official’ lie.
Civil servants are exactly that, servants
If we, the voters, are to allow civil servants free reign on what they say and do publically where does it end? If a civil servant takes a personal dislike to a particular politician should he step up to the microphone and rant? If the likes of MacPherson decides Scotland should have no constitutional right to retain a parliament if the UK parliament wishes to remove it for any reason, should that civil servant be allowed to publish his opinion? If a civil servant becomes politicised let him leave office, join a political party, and canvas support for his prejudices.
In his book, ‘The Dream Shall Never Die,’ Alex Salmond notes how, in 2011, he met George Osborne and Sir Nicholas in the Treasury. Osborne was in good mood, “full of bonhomie,” while Sir Nicholas “radiated hostility,” a portent of things to come.
Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring
MacPherson defended his decision to oppose Scotland’s independence on the basis he personally deemed it “an extreme case.”
“People are seeking to destroy the fabric of the state” and to “impugn its territorial integrity,” and therefore in his fevered mind he was justified in speaking out publically.
“Cutthroat bandits in the path of fame.” (Burns.)
“Destroy the fabric of the state.” This is how a Treasury mandarin of colonial mentality interprets a nation’s right to agitate for full democratic status and structures. What outrageous conduct.
One of the committee’s conclusions was that the Government should guarantee “the publication of advice to ministers will never recur”. “The decision to publish,” the committee warns, “will have unintended consequences for advice given to ministers on future major issues – including referendums.” But they neither sanctioned him, docked his salary for a year, or fired him. They might as well have had some pleasant old buffer banter over a cup of tea and a cream crumpet, a glass of good port near to hand.
MacPherson is still on the loose, no doubt getting pats on the back from pals, and “Well done Nick, old chum!” And “How you stuck it to the Jocks, Nicky.”
Yet again we are given an example of how the British Establishment reacts to dissent by refusing to acknowledge there are two countries held together under a grossly outdated treaty. As far as MacPherson and his likes are concerned there is only one country, the United Kingdom, ergo, the British Isles under English rule. Nothing can be altered. It is written in Stone – but not the Stone of Scone.
The mark of a thorough jerk is that he has to be right.
This is a case of Zsár Nicholas. MacPherson proves he is unfit for his job and should resign. If he does not, he should be sacked. The idea a civil servant can act upon his own private manifesto is totally unacceptable.
Post script: MacPherson resigned on the 13 January 2016.