Saturday, 6 June 2015

We must find a common purpose in Scotland

The difficulty we have in Scotland is that around half the population desperately want independence while half the population desperately don’t. If there were to be another independence referendum this September what would be the result? I’ve no idea. It might be that another passionate Yes campaign would take them over the line. On the other hand, the same arguments that No put forward last time would still apply and in addition Scotland’s fiscal position is rather worse than was portrayed last summer by the SNP. The economics would again be scrutinised by experts and the vast majority of those experts would say that Scotland would be much poorer as an independent country. This would all be portrayed as very negative. No doubt it is. I would hope that any Pro UK campaign in the future would talk much more about how great a country the UK is. But economics is a vital part of elections and so I have no doubt that many people would reflect on the impact independence would have on their personal circumstances.

At the moment the SNP while in theory wishing to have Full Fiscal Autonomy (FFA) don’t want it now. It’s rather like Saint Augustine’s statement “Lord make me chaste, but not yet” One of the SNP MPs George Kerevan has described (FFA) as economic suicideScotland requires money from the UK government to break even. If we did not have that money we would have to raise taxes hugely and cut public spending massively. One wonders rather then why Mr Kerevan is an SNP MP given that he has so ably pointed out one of the main benefits of Scotland being a part of the UK.
The reason Mr Kerevan is an SNP MP, probably has nothing to do with the economics. He no doubt thinks Scotland ought to be independent simply because Scotland is a country. The "independence come what may argument" has a lot going for it. I have no quarrel with someone who says I don’t care if Scotland would be poorer as we would have our own sovereign parliament and it would be worth it. Lots of people around the world have argued in this way.  Independence made Ireland worse off materially for 50 years it also caused civil war partition and years of terrorism in Northern Ireland. It's clear then that many people are willing to go through tough times to get independence.

But this is not the argument that was presented to us. The SNP argued during the referendum not so much that Scotland ought to be independent come what may, but rather that we’d all be much better off. They convinced rather a lot of people, but mainly among those who either don’t care about the economics, the fundamentalists who want independence come what may, or amongst those who were willing to be led by the fundamentalists.  Would that tactic work again? It might. We live in a Scotland that has just voted for 56 SNP MPs. It isn’t exactly as if the SNP record in government in Scotland deserves such a level of support. They haven’t done wonders with those areas of Scottish life that they control. Quite the reverse. Moreover what these MPs are supposed to want, i.e. Full Fiscal Autonomy they in fact don’t want, that is if they actually all understand what FFA is. But if they don’t want FFA just yet, they clearly don’t want independence just yet either. Independence is after all FFA with bells on. So the Scottish electorate just voted for 56 MPs who represent a party that has not made a particularly good job of running Scotland and who have a policy they don’t in fact want. At least not yet.  As I frequently say, can we have another electorate please?

It’s all very well getting your supporters all worked up about nationalism. Isn’t it great when they treat politics as if it were a football match involving Scotland? I've long thought that Scottish nationalism stands on the shoulders not so much of giants as on the shoulders of Scottish football. If I had a time machine the one thing I would do would make the UK play football as one team. We wouldn't be having this argument in that case. When politics becomes a football match, then people vote for the SNP like they like they cheer on Scotland. It all becomes rather tribal almost instinctual and very far from intellectualBut thinking nationalists must realise that if Scotland did vote for independence we would all have to deal with the consequences and that means people who are not fundamentalist nationalists would have to deal with the consequences too. Those SNP supporters who believed the stories about Scotland being much better off after independence might react rather unpleasantly if they found out the reverse was true. Others who always knew that the figures didn’t add up, would most likely vote with their feet. This is not an ideal situation for anyone who cares about Scotland. Surely we all do.

We need to be grown up about this. We need to think about the idea of "not yet". Scotland is not yet able to achieve Full Fiscal Autonomy and for the same reason we are not yet able to achieve independence. Let’s then put off further debate on this subject until such time as we are ready. Scotland needs to be more or less breaking even before we should even think about going it alone. So why not let all of us work together as a united people towards the goal of Scotland breaking even?  As a UK supporter, I would support Scotland breaking even and living within its means, for I think it would show that the UK is working well for all its citizens including those in Scotland. But an independence supporter could likewise support this goal, for it would provide the condition for the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent country without too much pain.

It would be wise of Nicola Sturgeon to tell her supporters that independence while remaining a long term goal, is off the table for the next few years. This would help everyone to get over the division caused by the referendum. It would also provide businesses with the security of knowing that investing in Scotland was more or less risk free. We need to focus on bringing jobs to the poorer parts of Scotland, we need to focus on getting more value for money out of public services, we need to earn more and spend rather less. This would give us a Scotland that created jobs and had wealth and that was dependent not on natural resources but on our own initiative.

If at some point in the coming years Scotland was demonstrably breaking even or better still making a small profit, we could revisit the independence campaign again. I would still oppose independence. My country is the UK and I see Scotland as forming an integral part of it. I see advantages to Scotland forever being a part of the UK. But fundamentally I want the UK to remain together as one country, for the same reason that an American wants the USA to remain united as one country. This has nothing whatsoever to do with being better together. The UK Is one country and for that reason alone it ought not to break up. 

But those Scottish nationalists who wanted independence would be able to make their case from a much better position if Scotland were actually making a profit and this profit did not depend on the fluctuating price of a commodity. The best thing of all is that if Scotland were actually more prosperous than it is now, if there were less poverty and more opportunity, it would matter less to everyone whether we were independent or not. Independence would not be seen as the great disaster that most No voters think it would be, nor would it be seen as the only way to solve our problems as many Yes supporters think. In this way it might be possible for us all to unite behind whatever that future decision might be and so become one people in a way that is just not possible today.

We have the same task then whether we are Yes or No. We should work towards creating a fairer, more prosperous, more efficient country that lives within its means. Having done so, we could equally well argue that this economic situation has vindicated Scotland’s position as a part of the UK or that we are now ready for independence. But let us at least have a common purpose for the next few years. Let us cease this endless squabble about constitutional matters. Let us pause, make peace and discuss the issue again some years from now. 

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  1. Clear and concise as always. Your blog should be a mandatory read for all SNP MPs, but of course they are not allowed to disagree with anything, so presumably they would lie awake in the stillness in the night, wondering when the wheels are going to come off Braveheart's chariot, and how they will escape the utter humiliation of having nearly succeeded in turning Scotland into an economic basket case.

    1. It's interesting to reflect on SNP supporters who actually understand the economics.Do they really think it's worth persuading those who don't understand the economics to vote against their own self-interest. I think the fundamentalists do think this way. For which reason they are rather frightening.

    2. I understand the economics fully. I'm not sure what difference it makes if the deficit is funded by UK or Scotland. The problem exists regardless. What you advocate is leaving it as a UK problem, doing little different and hoping for the best.

      The problem with the UK position you take is that they and you seem to be able to take anything negotiable as regards cost off the table with impunity e.g Trident renewal

      While the SNP need to have every scenario covered..Your have blind faith in London despite the evidence of the poor fiscal situation we find ourselves in.

      While you offer up future ghosts for the SNP to chase off you conveniently ignore the facts of a rather poor situation in Scotland due in some measure to poor leadership from London since the 70's.

      There is fundamentalist thinking on both sides. It's clearly harder to recognise your own.

  2. "I have no quarrel with someone who says I don’t care if Scotland would be poorer as we would have our own sovereign parliament and it would be worth it"

    It would earn more respect all round if this were the approach. It would also alleviate the need for the pantomime of slandering the UK and its institutions, all the other nefarious activities and works of fiction. In the haste to talk down the UK I think the separatists lose sight of the fact it is rUK that iScotland would have to be 'best of friends' with.

    Separatists know turkeys won't vote for Xmas though, so nobody hold their breath on this.

    "If I had a time machine the one thing I would do would make the UK play football as one team"

    Or better still, make cycling the national sport - seems we have more success on two wheels!

    "It would be wise of Nicola Sturgeon to tell her supporters that independence while remaining a long term goal, is off the table for the next few years"

    Hard for politicians to resist the popularity that can flow from their policies, even if it does seem to involve holding an eternal axe over the UK.

    1. The difficulty the SNP have is that they may find themselves pushed into trying to hold another referendum when the economics is just not right. Personally I think Dave and successors can legitimately block such a referendum for at least a generation, but what if they granted one and the SNP lost. I think they would lose if people really understood that independence would make them much poorer. To lose two referendums would be game over for Scottish nationalism no matter who many SNP MPs there are. Interesting dilemma for Nicola and co

    2. Yes because blocking democracy is a certain way to kill the desire....Rather than doing the smart thing and resolving issue.

      If the Tories actually delivered FFA or Home Rule while leaving defence and Foreign affairs to UK I suspect independence would be killed dead.

      However its all about they can't.

    3. Whether independence or FFA, Scotland will be far poorer. Those of us who can move to England will. I will not live in this country on a point of principle if it becomes independent. We said no. What is being attempted is a type of political rape. I and many others wont accept it, ever. Others not so passionate will leave to avoid the high taxes that will surely be necessary to maintain public spending at current levels. The result is that the net contributors of today will be gone, leaving only the net recipients. Spending cuts will follow - savage ones. And they will be richly deserved if Scotland ever votes for this retrograde step.

  3. I think we have aways been a divided nation Effie. Maybe all nations are to a greater or lesser extent. One example that struck just yesterday was someone talking about how Leslie's defeat at the hands of Cromwell was a defeat for Scotland, as indeed it is so recorded by history.

    Yet this Scotland that was defeated was Covenaanter Scotland, the Scotand that was proportionatey one of the worst witch executing nations in Europe. I think I'm right in saying that no witches were burned in Catholic Scotland.

    In my lifetime, sectarian discrimnation was perfectly open and nodded at by the STUC and the Kirk.

    What we can all unite in is in backing the elements within the SNP - I include Sturgeon in this - whp genuinely wish to create an equal Scotland. I suppose i am even willing - up to a point - ro hear the nationalist delusionary cobblers abut us all being Jock Tamson's bairns without screaming.

    1. I tend to understand history in terms of sweeping generalisations rather details. I therefore see Britain being involved in a civil war that began in the 1630s and ended in 1745. In the end Jacobites/Tories/Catholics/Cavaliers lost. This created the modern prosperous Britain we know. The British Civil War war divided each part of Britain, but we got over it. When Scott wrote Waverley he could reflect on how we had put behind us the divisions. It was for this reason that he could to an extent celebrate the 45. It was a dead issue.

      I don't think Scotland was divided like it is now when I was a child. Sectarianism wasn't a political issue. Now it is. Orange supports No, Green supports Yes, but for reasons that have little to do with Scotland.

      There is a chance to work with Nicola perhaps. But they have whipped up nationalism to get a Yes vote and I don't think they can calm it down even if they tried. She must know that independence can't happen anytime soon without hugely damaging Scotland, but can she say so without destroying herself and the SNP?

      I favour equality of opportunity, but I oppose equality of outcome as it can only be imposed by a tyranny. Give everyone a fair chance and be kind to those who struggle. That's as equal as we can get.

      Everyone who can trace their ancestry back a few generations in Scotland is equally the child of William the Conqueror or any other such figure you choose. We are have the same ancestors if you go back far enough, which makes nationalism just a lot of lies and nonsense.

  4. If you want reconciliation.
    1. Dont misquote Kerevan. Nothing makes me more distrustful than a misquote.
    2. Don't compare us to Ireland outside the EU. EU membership has always been an essential part of the independence vision.
    3. Stop patronising pro-indy folk. I am not a nationalist. My main objective behind my desire for independence is to have a sovereign government which can fully represent us.

    Finally though I agree, sort of, the next step for the YES movement is to grow the economy. FFA is a goal.
    Funnily enough I posted a similar blog myself. I do agree there is some common ground here

    1. The SNP were against the EU for 20+ years so given that it does seem rather odd you complain about a 'misquote'.

    2. Fairly typical reply......The fact is that the SNP are pro EU and are basing current independence vision on EU membership but you keep plugging away and making yourself happy.

  5. Seems very much like just another of your attempts to ensure the "nasty nats" get back in their box Effie, rather than a genuine attempt to promote reconciliation. Are we to take it now that you no longer subscribe to your previously expressed view that future referendums should be banned? Have you perhaps reconsidered your outrageous statement that pro-independence immigrants in Scotland were "treacherous"? The thing is Effie, I just don't trust your good faith, or your apparent Damascene conversion to the benefits of of all having a group hug and just getting along with one another.

    People are motivated to support one side or the other for a variety of reasons, both of the heart and of the head. Most people who support independence don't do so solely on the basis of any one policy, idea or concept. Of course there may be an element of patriotism, even nationalism (although it IS obviously a loaded term), mixed with political, social and intellectual concepts which will vary from person to person.

    Neither side of this argument has a monopoly on truth, or on righteousness. There are of course extremists on both sides. It suits your purposes, and those of the anti-independence camp more broadly, to caricature the other side often in the most negative, stereotypical and hyperbolic terms. To an extent this worked last September; as Blair McDougall himself famously noted, negativity in the campaign worked. However, the fruits of that policy were demonstrated at the General Election.

    I have a suspicion your pious hope that the debate can be forgotten for a few years will remain unrealised. Most of us who campaigned for independence, and even felt compelled to join the SNP as a result of it, aren't content to "make peace and discuss the issue some years from now" because we don't trust the No camp to act in good faith, we think it is vanishingly unlikely you will deliver an acceptable devolution settlement, and we are convinced that the improved economic situation you think is necessary will simply not happen with the austerity policies of a Tory government so decisively rejected in Scotland.

    You talk a good game when it suits you Effie, but when push comes to shove you are much happier blocking people on twitter rather than engage in reasoned debate, and have been one of the chief proponents of those insisting the sky would fall if we voted for independence. There are of course risks in the status quo, or in taking our independence; whether these are bigger risks than some other devolutionary settlement remains to be seen. I for one won't be standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who is trying to ban future votes, or who considers fellow campaigners treacherous.

    1. An acceptable devolution settlement? come on now the SNP no longer want FFA and are scared to death of losing the Barnet formula as the majority of their policy's that got them popular rely on its funding.

      What's the SNP for? Its not for independence any more and its not for full fiscal autonomy and as it turns our they are not there to be Labours conscience so really anyone that paid the £1 to join the SNP should ask for a refund.

    2. SNP voted for FFA yesterday .....Labour abstained and Tories voted against. Why is this ?

  6. I am not sure what it takes to persuade the Nats that the economics of independence would leave Scotland grindingly poor. Just what is it they believe would improve the economy sufficiently to wipe out the gaping deficit? There seems to be no understanding that Tory austerity is a mere picnic compared with what the SNP would need to impose.
    On a separate note, insisting on EU membership is abnegating the Holy Grail of independence. The entire purpose of the EU is to create a United Europe. So they don't want to continue as part of the United Kingdom, but do want to be a very small nation within a United Europe?? Given the bulk of Scotland's trade is with rUK and indeed a far larger share than with the rest of the EU, I am not at all clear where the rationale is in leaving the UK, aunion with which your major trade is carried out, to join a bigger and more controlling Union whose ultimate aim is a United Europe, controlled by unelected officials in Brussels.
    If there is a Nat out there who would admit the decision is made entirely emotionally and it doesn't matter how poverty-stricken it will leave the residents of an Independent Scotland, rather than insulting my intelligence with the lie that we would be better off, I would have more respect for their belief, regardless of whether I agreed with it or not.

    1. Scotland is according to you a financial disaster. Yet its been run from London for 300+ years.

      Your vision is accept its a pile of crap and hope for the best and that London will see us alright.

      The EU don't take all your tax and give you 30% back...That is the difference with UK and EU Union. We have Scotland ruled from London by a party today that got 1 in 10 of possible votes.... They have 1 MP...just

      So unelected officials in London who not only make rules but also take 100% of your tax and very grudgingly give you some back and furthermore insist on keeping their WMD's in your backyard.

    2. You do not seem to have grasped the basis of the Grant Scotland receives, from the manner you describe the UK as taking all the tax and giving back 30%. Scotland spends more than Scotland raises in tax. The difference is funded by rUK. It is the advantage of being part of a United Kingdom, whose wealthier regions help support the poorer areas, generally without complaint, although how much longer they will tolerate the antics at Westminster, is anyone's guess.

      Scotland's low levels of population per sq mile, in all but the Central Belt, combined with high costs of infrastructure and its maintenance over the relatively large land area we occupy in UK terms, means it is a far more expensive place to run. The tax base in Scotland simply cannot sustain the levels required to meet the welfare benefits bill, without either swingeing cuts to benefits, or a massive increase in taxation, on the relatively small number who pay significant tax, as a proportion of the adult population. You may wish to guess where they would go in the event of a swingeing tax hike.

      You refer to 300 years in the past. The last time Scotland ran its own affairs it made such a mess of it we were bailed out by the English. If you weren't taught about the Darien Scheme at school, perhaps you should google it. It led to the Union, and saved our bacon. It is to the credit of the English that they don't rub our noses in it, every time someone comes out with this claptrap.

      So is Scotland a "financial disaster"? I believe it would be under FFA, for the reasons which have been covered. Under present arrangements it is a part of the UK which receives support from the rest of the Union.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.


    5. John,
      Seems to have escaped your notice that the UK as a whole is spending more than it collects. After the SE of England Scotland contributes more per head than every other region in the UK.

      So the issue of deficit applies to Scotland and the UK. Its a very simple question. Why is it a disaster for Scotland to fund its own deficit from the markets and somehow good management for the UK to do the exact same but on an even larger scale.

      The rest of your post shows that you seem to have issues with self esteem. Darien scheme...don't make me laugh. The credit oif the English ? Why would any sensible person even say that.

    6. Did you look at the chart for which a link was provided in a comment above? I think you must have your numbers muddled up?

    7. You seem unable to answer a simple question. Why is it any differnt ? Even if your numbers were correct ? Does the deficit in Scotland magically not exist ?

      Why are we paying interest on UK debt in Scotland ?

  7. If the test is Scotland breaking even then should we not apply the same logic to a union running a large deficit? Or, perhaps Scotland running a smaller deficit? Funnily enough I'll bet Norway run at a profit, I wonder why.

    Scotland would only be able to demonstrate it can run its affairs if allowed too. The current deficit foisted upon it make that innately difficult. It seems a spurious test.


    1. The size of an acceptable deficit relies entirely on the creditworthiness of the borrowing nation, and its ability to repay and service the debt. I would suggest to you that Scotland would be perceived as having a very different credit rating than the UK as a whole.

      I am watching the Greek situation with particular interest - another left-leaning basket-case of a country which refuses to initiate the tough reforms needed to get its spending under control.
      I am not sure if you were around or were conscious of what went on when Argentina defaulted, but it is very messy indeed.

    2. If Scotland has no debt then its in a better position than the UK and in any case there is plenty of demand for debt given everyone is looking for yield.

      Argentina's issue was debt issued in a differnt currency.......Not something likely to happen in Scotland.

  8. It's incredible this debate is still ongoing. They just wont accept the democratic outcome of the referendum. They will turn Scotland into even more of a backwater than it already is. As for those of us with qualifications, skills and aspiration, England (or perhaps sunnier climes) beckon. All that will be left is a bunch of angry neds, frustrated that their would be cash cow has thwarted them by ingeniously getting into a car and driving down the M74.

    Anyway, moot point. Or should f***ing be!

  9. Its the so called winners who keep brining it up.....

  10. That's not what I'm seeing running man. Hardly a day goes by without the nats threatening another referendum if they don't get a, b, c, d, x, y or z. Their more uncouth members and supporters tell us Scotland WILL be independent, "it's only a matter of time".

    We settled this issue but the nats can't move on. When they finally do so, the unionists will be glad to join them in finally burying all this stuff.

  11. Saw a shocking report today on Scottish North Sea oil revenues. Projected revenues for 2020-2040 have been revised down from 132 billion to 2 billion (nope, that's not a typo!). Oil prices are expected to remain at or around 60 dollars a barrel into the long term future.

    This kills FFA / independence. Only a fool would now go after either one.