Monday, 25 January 2010

Better off in Britain. Scotland's devolution dividend.

The Scotsman has a story which rather neatly distils the economic argument against Scottish independence and the SNP’s flimsy response.

Confronted with hard figures which demonstrate that Scotland does rather well out of its membership of the United Kingdom the nationalists bluster about “anti Scottish propaganda” and take up their mantra of “Scotland’s oil”.

On this occasion the Scottish Office has released figures which appear to demonstrate the Scotland has gained a £76 billion ‘devolution dividend’. The SNP is always quick to attempt to change the frame of reference to patriotism.

If you believe the government’s figures then you are ‘doing Scotland down’, hence you are not a good Scotsman. It’s the type of reductionist, identity based politics we’re accustomed to in Northern Ireland.

It also relies on a sense of entitlement to dwindling oilfields which the SNP is fond of claiming for Scotland. Of course, in the event of independence, the result would be a great deal more complicated.

Still, opinion polls demonstrate that Scots are not fooled by Alex Salmond’s economics. After all, previously the First Minister was intent on emphasising the key role which Scotland’s banking sector, which was saved from collapse by the British taxpayer, would play in an independent nation.

Of course economics only form part of the pro-Union case. The Conservative reaction to this story is the most pertinent, from a unionist perspective.

“People know Scotland is better off socially, culturally, financially and politically as part of Britain”.


K D Tennent said...

I agree completely. Trouble is, who's going to sort this out:

'And in an examination of "real money" government expenditure that excludes capital spending, Scotland Office economists found total expenditure in Scotland currently amounts to 145 per cent of all Scottish tax receipts.'

Is David Cameron man enough for the challenge? Its going to take a lot of diplomacy to keep the Scots happy when they eventually get rid of the Barnet formula. Hard to see the Tories win more than 1 or 2 Westminster seats there, so the alleged democratic deficit will be massive problem.

Anonymous said...

It's precisely the ill informed, arrogant, condescending unionism like this that is driving the SNP forwards. More Please!

Chekov said...

It is precisely the type of nationalism which presents every pro-Union argument as intrinsically anti-Scottish which shows just what an un-reformed, deplorable bunch the SNP are.

K D Tennent said...

What could be more Scottish than talking about economic reality in the land of Adam Smith?

Munguin said...

How credulous can you be believing government figures? In case you have not noticed they only ever release figures that put a positive slant on what Scotland gets from the Union, that will be why they suppressed the McCrone Report in the 1970s. I don ‘t suppose that from your Irish perspective you have even bothered to look that far into it to find out what that is. Why don’t you content yourself with telling us all how well Northern Ireland are doing out of the Union and keep quite on things you know nothing about.

Your lack of knowledge on this subject just shines through for example it is the Scottish Labour party that is unpopular and not Alex Salmond and the SNP that is why the Labour run Scottish Office is needing to spout this appallingly jaundiced item of propaganda. So which opinion poll is that you are using to prove Alex is unpopular you don’t mention it?

Also the Scottish banking system you say? Are you meaning the Labour government propping up of HBOS and the Royal Bank of Scotland? I would point out that HBOS means Halifax Bank of Scotland and as the Halifax was the larger partner its name came first and unless I am very much mistaken Halifax is not in Scotland, and the Royal Bank of Scotland include the Nat West and Williams and Glynne, only the former and the Royal name are actually Scottish.

K D Tennent said...

Munguin, where then does the SNP get its figures from? Unfortunately the government's figures are the only ones we have to work with. I also think they are believable, because Scotland really possesses very few competitive advantages at present; much of the economy is reliant on screwdriver industry with very little knowledge accumulation in Scotland. Reliance on dwindling, hard to reach supplies of a primary commodity is also a dubious base for an economy.

As for the Scottish banks, well of course RBS actually bought Williams & Gynne and Nat West, not the other way round. Even if its affairs are largely run from London, it still has its not insignificant HQ in Edinburgh. Same for HBOS, which though Halifax was larger, didn't do a whole lot in Halifax and relied on the BOS side to enter the investment/merchant market. Funny how the SNP wanted everything to do with the banks, then once the bubble bursts nationalists claim the banks aren't even Scottish. Tells us everything about the fantasy world of the SNP really.

Munguin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Munguin said...

It is also incredible to note that when these so called Scottish banks, which are not actually Scottish at all, were doing well they were lauded by the English Government as bastions of British achievement and enterprise to such an extent that their chairmen (eg. Fred Goodwin) were given Knighthoods for services to banking. But now that the lax regulation from London has brought the whole house of cards down they are Scottish banks that have ruined the British economy. Any comment on that KD?

Munguin said...

KD: What SNP figures are you talking about? Did you understand the bit about the McCrone report? I.E. Government figures which were suppressed because they showed that there is far more oil than even the SNP estimated. Are you going to comment on that or just ignore it? If Scotland is so expensive and gets so much from the Union while giving so little why is it that even the Tories are no prepared to allow a referendum on independence. That is the Tories who have one Scottish MP and have only once in the 20th/21st Century needed Scottish MPs to form a government, whereas Labour have always needed them. So without Scotland the Tories would be likely to always form a Government in England and yet they still do not want to let Scotland go or even allow a referendum which the SNP are likely to lose. I wonder why? Can you explain that one?

I look forward to your explanation as to why the huge problem and drain on resources that according to you is Scotland is kept in the Union. Surely not because the English love us all so!

K D Tennent said...

On the McCrone report - of course its impossible to know how much oil there really is unless you are a geologist. I seem to remember Alex Salmond recently claiming there was over £1 trillion worth of oil left, a figure no doubt pulled out of the air because it sounded sufficiently large. The reality is that it is really is dubious to base Scotland's economy around oil, when its not even clear that oil will continue to be the world's main fuel in the middle-long term future.

Are you really telling me that an independent Scotland would have regulated the banks more strictly than London did? More likely that the Scottish banks would have been involved in even more risky activity on a more narrow base, just like the Icelandic and Irish banks. All the evidence shows that smaller jurisdictions tend to have looser banking regulations, because they need to attract the funds more.

Why is Scotland kept in the Union? Perhaps because people in Scotland want to stay there. Ask the average English person and they will be relatively indifferent to Scotland and the Union. It seems to me that its people like the SNP that want a 'them and us' mentality on this. As someone that lives in London I certainly don't want Scotland to break away from the rest of the UK, because as someone with family in Scotland and who visits frequently I wouldn't want to loose my citizenship rights there. It strikes me that its small minded people in Scotland, who have never actually met many English people, that assume that the English are evil oppressors in some way, and blame them for Scotland's relative economic decline. No one in Scotland complained about the Union when Scotland was able to share in the opportunities that the Industrial Revolution, and Empire brought. The British project is also essentially a Scottish one. Being in the Union continues to give Scotland more opportunities than it would have otherwise. Scotland needs to play to its strengths as they exist at the moment - it still brings plenty to the union table besides oil - it remains a great exporter of people for example, it contributes culturally, and we can all still enjoy its wide open spaces. Small countries will always export people - do you want your people to be forced to move 'abroad'? Do you really want England to be abroad? And should people in northern England also break away from the Union because they are a drain on the finances of the south?

As for the Tories, I expect Chekov can tell you better than me. But the Union remains an important part of Tory policy, and in Scotland that sets them apart from the SNP. Scots are perfectly entitled to vote for the Tories if they want to. Perhaps the Tories have actually decided to prioritise principle before strategy for once.

Munguin said...

KD: I was using the McCrone report as an example of Government figures being used or suppressed to bolster that Government’s agenda, not as an indication of how much or how little oil is actually left. If you remember I cast doubt on the veracity of Scottish Office figures mentioned in the original post and you responded by asking where the SNP gets its from, and by saying that the Scottish Office ones are all we have. I imagine that the SNP would base its figures on the McCrone report, which was if you remember, was commissioned by a Labour Government in the 1970s in response to the SNP’s claims regarding the amount of oil in the North Sea. Unfortunately the report concluded that there was far more oil than even the SNP thought so the report was suppressed for 30 years.

Why do you assume that Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government would simply magic up figures out of thin air while simply believing what the Labour run Scottish Office says verbatim? You are right: who indeed is to say how much oil is left? Clearly not you or me. Who also says that the entire Scottish economy would be based on oil alone? Only you, I think.

Who is to say how an independent Scotland would have regulated its banking sector? I don’t propose to indulge in supposition. Suffice to say that the regulation from London has proved, to say the least, unfortunate. I do, however, note that you only compare Scotland to Iceland and Ireland and not to, say Norway or Sweden. Am I right in thinking that both the Irish and Icelandic economies are showing evidence of recovery greater than the UK? Am I also right in thinking that the Norwegian economy is based mostly on oil and has not shown signs of recession?

I note you say very little about Fred Goodwin’s knighthood from the English Government for services to banking and how, when things were going well the so called Scottish banks were much celebrated at a UK level. Is that part not to be included in your business history course?

As to the question of why Scotland is kept in the Union. How do you know that the people of Scotland want to stay there when Scots are not allowed a referendum on the issue? If you (I am assuming you are) and all those with a Unionist agenda are so sure on this point why are you all so dead set against allowing the Scots to have a vote on the issue? Why not call the SNPs bluff, allow the referendum and then win it and put this issue on the back burner?

You stretch credulity with what you say regarding citizenship. You are aware that we are all citizens of the EU and as such have EU passports, you have the right to settle in any EU country so why would Scotland be any different?

How do you know that nobody complained about being in the Union when the so called benefits of empire were being distributed? Are you assuming that the Scots had no national pride at all during the 18th and 19th centuries, or does the LSE have a time machine in the basement?

By the small minded people in Scotland who have never even met the English do you mean me? Sorry to disappoint but I lived in London for 20 years and met a great number of English people, who were almost all by and large indifferent to Scotland and unaware in many cases that it was a different country. For that reason yes, I do want England to be abroad because it’s not right or fair that a country’s future should be determined in the capital city of a foreign nation.

All you have to say seems to revolve around economics and little else what about a nation’s pride and its right to self determination. I frankly don’t care if Scotland is broke as long as it is run from Scotland by Scots and for Scots and I think you will find that when we get that referendum I will be in the majority.

What happens to England, north and south after Scottish independence is another subject for supposition as is quite frankly none of mine or Scotland’s business. A salutary lesson for England when it finds itself alone in its glorious Union not to go round the world sticking its nose into places that it does not belong.