Friday 17 December 2021

Sturgeon is the hypocrite


So, we are back in a sort of semi lockdown. You can argue if you like about whether it is necessary. You can also complain about parties that happened a year ago and pretend that it matters. I broke lockdown rules, when I thought it was safe to do so. Everyone did. But doesn’t it feel good to point out someone else’s hypocrisy while not noticing our own.

I am completely uninterested in by-election results, which have no long-term significance. I have no idea whether Omicron will prove to be more or less serious than previous mutations. I no longer argue about vaccines as the debate is toxic. I’m happy for you not to have one if you think the risk of vaccination is greater than the risk of Covid, but I really don’t want to hear your reasoning, just as you are uninterested in mine.

I will avoid other people as much as possible for the next few weeks and I’m frankly delighted to be working from home again as it saves me about four hours a day. But I’m fortunate. I don’t manage a pub or a restaurant or a small business that is now deserted.

The only thing that Boris can reasonably do in the face of Omicron is to speed up vaccination, which he is doing, encourage people to be sensible over Christmas and to keep the economy going. If you think that parties in Downing Street a year ago are more important than this or indeed that it would have been better if only Labour had won the last election, then by all means vote for someone else in North Shropshire, but it is no more than an angry gesture from voters who need to calm down.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford want more money. People who can’t work need furlough. Pubs and restaurants need to be bailed out. But implicitly in asking for more, both of them are saying that we can’t manage on our own. But there is something peculiarly inconsistent about Sturgeon in particular demanding more money from the Treasury. She still officially plans to hold an independence referendum next year. The SNP have argued that an independent Scotland would have no responsibility for the UK’s national debt. It might pay back only the interest, or it might not pay back any debt at all. But this is rather like going to the bank for a loan while admitting that you don’t intend to pay it back.

Taxation is partially devolved. The Scottish Government can raise or lower income tax. Unfortunately, recent SNP tax rises have been remarkably ineffective at actually raising revenue amounting to a mere £6 million. The SNP’s lack of understanding of basic economics means that it doesn’t grasp that lowering taxes is the way to grow the economy, which ultimately brings in more revenue. Some Tories need to be reminded of this too by a nocturnal visit from the ghost of Thatcher past.

But the more important point is that either Scotland does not need revenue from the Treasury, in which case why does the SNP continually ask for it, or Scotland does need money from the Treasury, in which case why is the SNP planning to give it up next year?

I’m quite sure at the start of the pandemic that Nicola Sturgeon could have gone on TV to say actually Mr Sunak Scotland is quite self-sufficient. We raise more in taxes than we spend. So, let’s make a deal. We’ll keep all the money we raise in Scotland and you keep your furlough. Later she could have said that we don’t need the vaccines that the UK ordered, we’ll manage fine on our own. Put like that it seems a bit ridiculous, but that is exactly what the SNP are saying they want to do next year.

Now it could be that magically being independent would give Scotland the means to raise enough money to make up for the loss of Treasury funding, but it is entirely unclear where that money would come from. An independent Scotland would not be able to borrow as cheaply as the Bank of England. The idea that the EU would rescue the encircled Scottish homesteaders, ignores the fact that the Euro is again showing signs of trouble and that the EU anyway gives loans with strings attached and the loans have to be paid back.

The money that has so far bailed out Wales and Scotland ultimately has to be paid back. The reason that the Treasury can still borrow is that the markets trust that it will be paid back. There may come a point when it is no longer possible to borrow at a reasonable rate. Imagine if the pandemic lasted for ten years, at some point the Government would have to say, I’m sorry you are all going to have to take your chances, because we can’t afford to keep you at home. That point is not yet.  But we will still need to pay back the debt gradually over the coming generations.

The reason that Government funding is spread evenly throughout the UK where it is needed is that we are one people who share one country. This is why money paid in tax by a city banker goes to a crofter in the Outer Hebrides. If we were really four nations as Sturgeon and Drakeford think, then why should a Londoner pay for furlough in Swansea or Stranraer? This is the problem with Mr Drakeford doing his broadcast in a language no one in the rest of Britain understands or Sturgeon refusing to display a Union Flag in Scotland. It says to people who are not Scottish or Welsh, why should we bail you out?

When I got my booster, I was asked if I were white British or white Scottish. I thought the question absurd because I am both. But those who think they are exclusively Scottish and who want to have an independence referendum next year, must think that they have no more in common with people from the other parts of the UK than our common humanity. If to be a Scot is the equivalent of being French, then other British citizens owe us no more than they owe the French. But we don’t get any grants or furlough from M. Macron. If on the other hand every citizen of the UK forms part of one people, then why do we talk of four nations and why do people like Sturgeon wish to split it up?

Either you think that Scotland can manage on its own, in which case why do you continually demand UK funding that you would cease to get after independence, or you recognise that everyone in Britain depends on everyone else, in which case you have admitted that separation is folly.

It was a mistake for Downing Street to organise parties a year ago, but it is far worse hypocrisy to demand money you don’t intent to pay back.