Twenty years ago just before the Channel Tunnel opened for business the media was playing up all the scare stories: rabid dogs slinking over from France, an invasion of immigrants, potato blight and bee killing moths decimating British agriculture.
Before that we had the Euromyths when the UK was joining the Common Market. They included the banning of curved bananas, mince pies and mushy peas, and that fish and chip shops would have to use Latin names for fish, double decker buses would be banned, rhubarb must be straight and busty barmaids would have to cover up their cleavage.
All palpable nonsense of course, but so potentially damaging that Brussels had to set up a team of officials to rebut the stories.
Scare stories, the threat of the unknown and uncertainty are the staple diet of Fleet Street and the Scottish independence referendum is providing rich pickings but this time they come with the added venom that comes with family in-fighting.
We are still more than a week away from the referendum vote and the atmosphere is getting more and more hysterical. There are even some who think the the timing of the announcement about the new royal baby is aimed at tilting the vote towards the No camp.
Imagine the conversation. “Kate darling, grandmama would like us to have another baby. She is very worried about the state of the union and she so likes Balmoral in August.”
The reality is that we don’t know what the Queen is thinking, and we don’t know what will happen to the UK’s finances, the Scottish currency, the impact on jobs, immigration, the NHS, the national defence or Scotland’s membership of the EU. As always, though, there is always an expert to make assumptions and most of the media will pick up and run with the most extreme versions.
Unfortunately this does have an affect, so when the latest poll points to a yes majority sterling falls, shares in Scottish financial companies tumble and the FTSE drops 50 points. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
Living in London I don’t get to see the Scottish media that much but the English papers have more than enough rubbish to be going on with and we don’t even have a vote. Let’s scotch (sic) a few myths: David Cameron will not lose his job if Scotland goes it alone, Scottish MPs will be allowed full voting rights in the Commons until they lose their jobs and the security services will still monitor north of the border.
Fleet Street must also realise that by demonising Alex Salmond and the yes campaign they are playing into his hands. Us against the world. And speaking of the world, does anyone outside the UK care what happens on 18 September?
While on the other side of the Channel Tunnel for a few weeks I have been reading the French newspapers and despite France being Scotland’s oldest ally, the Auld Alliance, there is not a dickie bird about the referendum.
However, the hysteria will get worse in the UK. That is a fact.