One of the most depressing things on Earth is listening to Scottish people telling other Scottish people how poor Scotland is, and with the GERS figures out today the usual cringeworthy doom-merchants are having a field day. It gars me greet that we actually fund these folk through our taxes. I mean, what other country on Earth pays for the privilege of its own belittlement? It’s insane.
Right. Here goes. Start the car, Steven Wylie…
1) Scotland has been in a Union for 313 years. Devolution is 21 years old. Westminster has been at the wheel of the economy for 95% of that time and still controls all the economic levers that matter. If it’s the catastrophic omnibouroch they claim it to be, it’s entirely their fault.
2) The whole point of GERS is to make Scotland look feckless, irresponsible, poor, wee, stupid and a bit crap. Ian Lang didn’t quite put it like that, but that’s the gist of his leaked memo to John Major. Denis Healey admitted that a bit part of his job as chancellor was to dampen down the oil figures, lest we realise what was being taken from us and why and promptly declared independence. Brian Taylor, no-one’s idea of a Scottish nationalist, actually made a similar point today on Good Morning Scotland.
3) The black hole is a total fallacy because the target deficit isn’t zero. It isn’t even close to zero. Every country in the world runs a deficit. Deficits are good things. Deficits help growth. The real deficit is the one between the target and actual – which may be 1bn (as it was in the UK in 2010 when the deficit was bigger than the GDP, although strangely nobody suggested that the UK couldn’t be independent). Plus, it’s not like we’re gifted the money. WM borrow in our name and then send us the bill whether we need the things or not. It would be like my neighbour taking out a £1000 loan for a lawnmower and then allocating £100 of the burden onto me, even if I live in a tenement flat and don’t have a garden. Also, it takes no account of things that we wouldn’t pay for after independence (nuclear submarines, £2bn less on conventional defence spending) because we wouldn’t need to.
4) Related to this, GERS says precisely zero about what an independent Scotland would look like because it assumes that an independent Scotland would act, fiscally, exactly how it had done as part of UK. That’s clearly insane, as if it did there’d no point in becoming independent. The whole point of the cause is to be able to choose to do things differently.
5) GERS takes no account of Brexit. Scotland may well rejoin the EU. If things move quickly Scotland might not leave at all.
6) Today’s nominal deficit includes: £3.4bn removed from Scotland’s accounts for UK military, £4.5bn to service Westminster debt, £1.8bn for UK ‘service costs’, £966m for ‘international services’. Whatever TF they are.
So today is an £11 billion reminder of a Scotland largely run under Westminster and it offers no indication whatsoever of what the finances of a self-governing Scotland would look like. Or, put another way, it’s eleven billion good reasons to vote for a more normal way of governing Scotland at the earliest opportunity.
Stay safe everybody. I’ll meet you further on up the road.