Wednesday 11 March 2020

Time to cease fiddling

We were promised that there would be an economic crisis if we voted to leave the EU. For three years our politicians argued with the EU and among themselves about little else. We were promised that leaving with “no deal” would cause economic chaos. Now we have a real crisis and it has nothing whatsoever to do with leaving the EU. There is a lesson here.

Our bodies are fragile. I tripped and fell the other week and broke my glasses. I ended up with cut hands and a few scratches. It could have been worse. Out of the class I went to school with some will no doubt have died in accidents, some will have died because of diseases, but most probably survive. Some people have a heart attack when they are forty-five some live to be one hundred. Who can tell when we see a small baby what will happen to it? There isn’t a lot of point worrying about things we can’t control or foresee.

It’s like the debate about the EU anyway. If you worry too much about a virus and every dire threat of death and doom, you may find yourself hit by a car instead. Look both ways and wash your hands, but otherwise carry on as normal.  

The crisis is twofold. A lot of people are going to get ill, some will die, but most will survive. All we can do is follow the sensible advice coming from the Government and hope for the best. The bigger crisis is economic.

There are going to be a lot of flights cancelled in the coming months. A lot of holidays are not going to be taken. A lot of people are going to work from home or else sit at home doing nothing much if they self-isolate and cannot work.

It is already clear that the Chinese economy has been damaged. This will affect everyone else. But China will recover quickly.

More worrying is Italy.  Italian national debt is 134% of GDP and amounts to 2.5 trillion Euros. 10% of Italians are unemployed. What will quarantining the whole country do to that?

EU politicians have been aware of the potential crisis facing the Eurozone for years. They have been aware of unsustainable debts. Currency union without full political and fiscal union just doesn’t work. But instead of spending the last decade trying to sort this problem they have been arguing with Britain about backstops. The EU needs to either complete political union which will mean massive and unlimited transfers from the richer regions to the poorer ones, or else it needs to work towards the return of national currencies. Either way we can be grateful that Britain is no longer a part of this mess.  

But we too in Britain have been wasting far too much time on trivia and avoiding the fundamentals. The British economy depends far too much on services. Unemployment is low, but too many of our graduates end up in low paid unskilled work. Much of what is taught in university is of no consequence and useless even as mental training. It is no preparation whatsoever for the workplace.

It was a mistake to expand higher education to such an extent. The economy needs people who learn useful skills that help them to get decent jobs. We need people who can make things and then sell them to other people around the world.

We need to take advantage of Brexit in order to remove the bureaucracy the EU has imposed on our economy and we need to get away from the EU’s protectionist model. We must offer free trade to everyone who wants it. We must encourage international business to come to Britain by offering low corporation tax and business friendly policies.

Our politicians need to cease spending time on non-issues that do nothing to help our economy. How much time has been wasted on the latest obsessions of the woke? Such matters make us no profit.

In Scotland we need the SNP to focus on the Scottish economy and healthcare rather than independence.

The first task for the SNP is to admit that at present Scotland spends more than we earn. The SNP should be clear that Scotland simply cannot afford independence until we begin to make something close to a profit. It should then recognise that is up to the Scottish Government to put in place policies that help Scottish businesses to make things and sell them.

Scottish infrastructure is not as good as it could be. We have hospitals that are unfinished and others not working effectively. It’s no use pointing out that there are problems in England too. There are problems everywhere. The task is to solve these problems here.

Independence is a distraction. There is not going to be a vote this year, nor probably for many years if ever. We are all going to be too busy with important matters like health and the economy. Scottish voters therefore must begin to judge our politicians not on their stance on independence, but rather on their competence. If we don’t, we will be to blame for what happens in the years ahead. We cannot let the SNP fiddle while Edinburgh burns.