Senior Civil Servant – Sir Nicholas Macpherson – Snubs The Civil Service Code And The Scottish Electorate

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1. Senior civil servant snubs the Civil Service Code

a. Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury breached the “Civil Service Code” at the time he released to the public his personal views and political advice in regard to the sharing of sterling in the event the Scottish Referendum returned a Yes vote.

b. His uninvited “advice” to the Chancellor of the Exchequer also conflicted with the stated position of the Governor of the Bank of England who had previously advised that an effective union of currencies was feasible, subject to agreement to a number of conditions.

c. When asked to clarify his actions he said “Throughout the debate on economic issues the Scottish Government has sought to cast doubt on the British Government’s position,” It has claimed we’re blustering, bluffing – in effect casting aspersions on the UK Government’s integrity. My view in this case – and it’s a very exceptional case – is that if publishing advice could strengthen the credibility of the Government’s position, then it was my duty to do it. It was important in this specific case, which goes to the heart of the currency issues, that the arguments were exposed before a referendum than after it.”

d. It was later revealed his intervention, together with senior members of the government and members of the “Better Together” campaign formed part of a carefully choreographed exercise in political destabilisation, allegedly called “the Dambusters strategy” by insiders.

e. Noteworthy is his use of the word “we’re” which indicates his actions were politically driven, which he did not deny. Quite disgraceful conduct for a senior civil servant. He should be intructed to resign his position.

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f. The Civil Service Code: Political Impartiality:

i. You must: Carry out your responsibilities in a way that is fair, just and equitable and reflects the Civil Service commitment to equality and diversity. You must not act in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests.

ii. You must not: Act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes; or allow your personal political views to determine any advice you give or your action. http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/civil-service-code-2010.pdf

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2. Sequence of Events

a. January 29 2014; Carney: sharing sterling between iScotland and rUK could lead to Eurozone-style crises

Sharing sterling between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK could lead to eurozone-style crises unless firm foundations are put in place, Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said. An effective union would also force a newly-independent Scotland to hand over some national sovereignty, he said in a speech at a business lunch in Edinburgh. He intervened on the technicalities for negotiations less than eight months before people in Scotland decide whether to leave the UK.

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b. February 13 2014; Gun for hire

After the lovebombing of Scots last week by David Cameron, his chancellor travelled North to revel in his role as bad cop. The venue for George Osborne’s declaration was a dramatic penthouse with a panorama of Edinburgh Castle in the appropriately named Bread Street. He carried a very large gun to shoot down Alex Salmond’s plan to continue sharing the pound with the rest of the UK after independence, but the bullets were crafted by the longstanding Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Nicholas Macpherson.

c. February 13 2014; Treasury advice behind currency row

The Chancellor ruled out a currency union with an independent Scotland after “strong” advice from the Treasury’s leading official, which was published today. Sir Nicholas Macpherson told George Osborne that unions are “fraught with difficulty” and raised serious concerns about the Scottish Government’s commitment to making it work. Scotland’s banking sector is too big in relation to national income, the UK could end up bailing the country out and fiscal policy shows sign of diverging, he said.

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d. March 7 2014; Danny Alexander: currency union decision is final

Calls for a monetary union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK are akin to “embarking on a damaging divorce” but insisting on still sharing a credit card, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said. Mr Alexander set out his reasons for rejecting the Scottish Government’s preferred currency solution, as he insisted that the cross-party decision to rule it out was final. He used his speech in Edinburgh to the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) to dismiss suggestions that the rejection of a monetary union, which would see an independent Scotland keep the pound, was a politically-motivated and tactical move.

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e. March 19 2014; Scare tactic was bang on the money

On February 13th, in a flying visit to Edinburgh, the UK Chancellor, George Osborne, declared that Scotland would be denied use of the pound, if it voted Yes in the referendum.
What followed was a carefully choreographed exercise in political destabilisation, allegedly called “the Dambusters strategy” by Unionist insiders, which shook the Yes campaign to its foundations. It also shook the Union to its foundations.

f. March 23 2014; Osborne’s case against currency union ripped apart by top economist

The Treasury case against a post-independence currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK has been dismantled as “misleading”, “unsubstantiated” and “the reverse of the truth” by one of the world’s leading economists. Professor Leslie Young, of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, accused the UK Government of relying on a “lurid collage of fact, conjecture and fantasy” in making its argument.

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g. April 5 2014; Currency furore over mystery of missing memos – No paper trail means Treasury’s position engineered, say SNP

The Treasury was last night at the centre of a growing row over political bias, after admitting it had no record of when its most senior civil servant first advised the Chancellor against a currency union with an independent Scotland. The inability of permanent secretary Sir Nicholas Macpherson to give a precise date is fuelling claims that Westminster’s bombshell rejection of a currency union was cooked up to help the No campaign in the referendum.

h. April 9 2014; Sir Nicholas Macpherson: ‘I was not ordered to rule out sharing pound with Scotland’

i. The Treasury’s top civil servant has rejected SNP claims that he advised against sharing the pound after independence because of political pressure, saying publishing his analysis was “vital to the national interest”. Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the permanent secretary to the Treasury, said the Scottish Government had been “casting aspersions” on Westminster’s integrity and it needed to be made “absolutely crystal clear” that a monetary union was not on the table. He said that George Osborne, the chancellor, had neither told him to write a letter rebuffing SNP proposals for sharing sterling or ordered the advice to be published. The comments came during Sir Nicholas’s appearance before MPs at the Public Administration committee to discuss civil service impartiality and referendums.

ii. A letter written by Sir Nicholas to Mr Osborne warned that a post-independence currency union would be “fraught with difficulty” and became a central part of the Chancellor’s justification for ruling out sharing the pound. Mr Osborne said the “exceptional step” of publishing Sir Nicholas’ internal advice was taken to prove why a currency union wouldn’t work, but Alex Salmond accused the civil servant of being beholden to his “political masters”. Sir Nicholas told MPs that the decision to publish his advice was “not something I entered into lightly” but insisted he remained “unapologetic”.

iii. “Throughout the debate on economic issues the Scottish Government has sought to cast doubt on the British Government’s position,” Sir Nicholas said. “It has claimed we’re blustering, bluffing – in effect casting aspersions on the UK Government’s integrity. “My view in this case – and it’s a very exceptional case – is that if publishing advice could strengthen the credibility of the Government’s position, then it was my duty to do it. “It was important in this specific case, which goes to the heart of the currency issues, that the arguments were exposed before a referendum than after it.”

iv. Sir Nicholas denied that revealing his private advice showed civil service politicisation, saying it was comparable to clarifying the UK Government’s position if questioned by a fellow European Union member state. He also dismissed the suggestion that Mr Osborne strong-armed him into airing views in public. “Ultimately this was my call – the Chancellor is a traditionalist in his approach to the Civil Service,” Sir Nicholas said. “I am quite certain that if I had said that I did not want to publish this advice he would not have pressed me. I thought it was the right thing to do in exceptional circumstances.”

v. Sir Nicholas’s comments will add weight to Westminster’s claim that an unnamed UK minister who controversially said a currency union would be agreed after independence is out of the loop from current Government thinking. The SNP has consistently claimed the UK Government will backtrack on sharing the pound after a Yes vote in the Sept 18 referendum.

vi. Kenneth Gibson, an SNP MSP and convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee, said that Westminster’s “currency bluff” had “completely crumbled”. “Regardless of the Treasury’s actions we know the real position of the UK Government as an unnamed Government Minister admitted last week is that ‘there will be a currency union…everything would change in the negotiations if there were a Yes vote’,” Mr Gibson said. “Even Alistair Darling himself has said that a shared sterling area is ‘desirable’ and ‘logical’. It’s time for the No campaign to stop the foolish bluffing, put its money where its mouth is and back sharing the pound.”

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i. April 9 2014; Treasury’s top civil servant: publishing advice to UK Govt on currency union was vital to national interest

Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the permanent secretary to the Treasury, said he is “confident” he did the right thing in taking the unusual step of making public his advice to Chancellor George Osborne. All headlines were extracted from The Herald providing continuity of reporting.

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