Some will naively take this to mean the Scottish Government had sought legal advice on the issue. However, it is not quite so cut and dried. Parliament asked to see the advice and was denied. The First Minister even launched legal action to thwart a Freedom of Information request to see the legal opinion. It turns out there was no legal briefing to see. When accused of lying Salmond declared that his use of the phrase in ‘terms of the debate’ acted as a qualifier which changed the meaning of ‘yes’ into ‘no’.
Today the phrase is widely used to indicate a deceptive answer or an outright lie. Middle aged women are now able to state their age as, “29, in terms of the debate.” You can make the most outrageous statement as long as you add the qualifier. If someone says something unbelievable, the standard response now is to ask the person if they are being truthful in terms of the debate. It is so much better than directly accusing them of deception.
Salmond and his Scottish National Party have built upon this success and turned deception into an art form. In the information age it is no longer necessary to actually lie as long as you add a qualifier. It is enough to simply misdirect and let the ball start rolling. The average SNP member is not the best or brightest Scotland has to offer, but is usually very active on the internet and social networking platforms. The SNP strategy is to make ambiguous or misleading statements and let their supporters misinterpret them and spread the word. If a lie is told often enough then people will start to believe.
Salmond’s reference to a new oil boom is a case in point. It is strikingly similar to his infamous ‘in terms of the debate’ remark. Here the so-called boom is not related to an increase in either production or price. The statement is modified by his use of the term ‘investment’. The expenditure to develop new oil and gas comprises his new prosperity. He leaves it to his minions to declare the greater benefits. When the boom fails to materialise Salmond can claim his statement was clearly ‘in terms of the investment’.
Another example is the use of ‘by wholesale value’ when describing reserves as being less than half depleted. He does not disagree that most of the oil has already been extracted and is a dwindling resource. He leaves it to his supporters to misinterpret and claim that Scotland still has more than half her reserves left. Once again, his minions can make fools of themselves while Salmond clings to his plausible deniability.
The assertion that Scotland owns 94% of all UK oil and gas is based upon the ‘median sea boundary’. This means that his estimates are predicated on the UK altering the accepted borders in Scotland’s favour and giving away a substantial portion of reserves. That is highly unlikely to happen and would fly in the face of the treaties already in place to divide NSO amongst participating countries.
Salmond has also claimed an independent Scotland would own nearly 60% of the EU’s oil and gas reserves. This is such a bold statement it really deserves a place next to ‘in terms of the debate’. He has managed to deliver two misconceptions in one. By leaving Norway’s huge share out he leaves the impression Scotland has Europe over a barrel…so to speak. He also implies that Scotland will be a member of the EU. It is a brilliant bit of deception.
Many Scots have cast a wishful eye at Norway’s sovereign oil fund. Salmond has told his acolytes that Scotland will have the same sort of investment. They might want to pay particular attention to the qualifier ‘in good economic times’.