Friday, April 13, 2007

Faux independence

Like a lot of the media, The Telegraph is painting the prospect of a decisive win for SNP in Scotland on May 3rd as a precursor to the the break up of the United Kingdom.

But perhaps most importantly, a decisive victory for the SNP could lead to the break-up of the historic Union. Scotland is witnessing potentially the bloodiest and keenest contest. Every seat on the Holyrood Parliament is up for grabs.

It won't happen. Scotland voting for independence and causing the break-up of the Union, that is. I'm pretty sure the SNP will win and win big in Scotland, but I do not believe that Salmond is serious about taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom. He doesn't need to. Scotland now benefits enormously through the Union and most of the people of Scotland recognise that. An independent Scotland could not sustain it's current level of public sector employment and spending without the assistance of English taxpayers.

Sure, it would continue to receive plenty of funds from England via the EU, but nowhere near the level it currently gets. I also find it incredible that any politician can claim they want "independence" and yet remain committed to the European Union. It's a funny kind of independence that allows another government in another country staffed by foreigners to dictate your laws and regulations.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Personally, I won't be too sorry if the SNP do break up the Union. Yes, it will be a little bit sad to see the end of Britain, but I'm all for being in a proper independent nation - and that means withdrawal from the EU. I don't really mind if that is as Britain or as England, but I believe that as long as England and Scotland remain tied together withdrawal form the EU will not happen - but if Scotland does leave the Union I believe this will present England with a unique opportunity to get that independence.

I look forward to the day when I can breathe once more as a citizen of a proper independent nation. I look forward to being able to hand on that birthright to my kids. I look forward to the day when we, as a nation, can make our own decisions about everything. Perhaps then we'll regain some pride, spirit and backbone as a people. Perhaps then, the next time some tinpot despot thinks he can mess with our armed forces we can send him away with a bloody nose and humiliation writ large across his forehead.

9 comments:

DV said...

Stan,

I agree with you that regardless of how well the SNP do (and aren't the BBC salivating at the prospect of a Scots Nat win?) the money that funds the bloated Scottish enterprise from England is still too good to resist. I suppose they could look to the Irish largesse from the EU, but I can't see it replicated up North. As you know, I disagree with your view of the break-up of the Union, but if it happens, I'm seeking US citizenship!

Richard Thomson said...

Hi Stan,

Where on earth do you get this idea that England 'subsidises' Scotland from? The only parts of the UK which make a net contribution to the overall UK pot are London, the South East, East Anglia and Scotland. Everywhere else, including vast tracts of England, receives more than they put back in.

Incidentally, as a reasonably wealthy part of western Europe (Scotland sits on the average level of UK wealth even if you exclude the oil revenues), Scotland would almost certainly be a net contributor to the EU.

Regards,

Richard

Stan said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6169353.stm

Stan said...

Sorry, hit the publish button before I was ready.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6169353.stm

I get the idea that England is subsidising Scotland from that, Richard.

An average government spending per person per year of more than £7000 - £1000 above average and around £1500 above the level in England.

All government revenue in Scotland came to £36.4bn but total spending was £47.7bn.

The figures showed that since 1980, government expenditure in Scotland had averaged 10.2% of UK spending.

But revenues raised in Scotland had averaged 9.1% of the UK total.

Add in a bloated and burgeoning public sector, an annual growth rate below that of the UK average and a rapid decline in manufactured export sales (dropping a quarter in three years) and I think you'll find that Scotland's contribution isn't anything like what you think.

Since 1980 Scotland has received 20% more - roughly - than it has contributed. I guess that equates to something like £100 billion - roughly - over that time. I don't see that being balanced out in the short term.

Richard Thomson said...

Well, Stan, you'd be wrong to get your ideas from the GERS report - a report so riddled with errors and heroic assumptions that the Scottish Executive Chief Economic Adviser, Dr Andrew Goudie, admitted recently to the Sottish Parliament's finance committee that he had considered not publishing it this year.

GERS excludes oil and gas revenues from its figures; allocates some £0.5 bn of expenditure to Scotland for English tourism and courts; overestimates categories of expenditure like defence; seriously underestimates income tax, VAT and Corporation Tax revenues; and takes no heed of the fact that the UK as a whole, including England, is running a current deficit, which would render any England to Scotland subsidy entirely impossible. In fact, in the words of one former Scottish Office Chief Statistician, the report is 'incapable of bearing the weight it is asked to support'.

I'd be interested to see your info on Scottish receipts and expenditure from 1980, since a study by the UCL Constitution Unit showed that Scotland turned in a surplus of £24bn between 1979 and 1999, while the rest of the UK trailed along behind. I also remember William Waldegrave, when he was a Conservative Chief Secretary to the Treasury, putting the figure between 1979 and 1995 at £27bn flowing southwards from Scotland.

Spending is higher in Scotland than the UK average, but then so is the figure for London. Add in the missing 'extra regio' oil and gas revenues, and the size of the state in Scotland 'shrinks' to 40.8% of GDP - below the equivalent UK figure and the OECD average - inefficient, possibly, but certainly not bloated by European or UK standards.

I don't know why it seems to pain so many people to admit it, but Scotland more than pays her way in the world. I see that you link to a lot of CEP-related stuff - if that's where your views lie, surely you'd concede that the case for English Independence has no bearing on Scottish public finances?

Regards,

Richard

Stan said...

The GERS report is an independent report and therefore more reliable - in my opinion - than any report published from the Scottish office and considerably more reliable than anything published by the SNP.

Even so, I also looked at a lot of the official stats for Scotland - which are considerably harder to decipher, but provided such insights as the rapid decline in manufacturing output.

Yep, I link to the CEP and the English Democrats and I support the idea of an independent England and an independent Scotland. Is that a crime?

The Lib Dems - not a party I support - suggest that independence from England will necessitate a 21p increase in income tax in Scotland to make up the loss. If you disagree with that, which I expect you do, then don't tell me - argue it with your local Lib Dem - but I do think that has some bearing on Scotland's finances in the event of independence. 21p in the pound isn't small beer.

It doesn't pain me at all if Scotland pays it's way - as part of the union or as an independent nation - but it doesn't at the moment and I don't believe it would in the immediate post independence future. Why do so many people find it so hard to admit that it doesn't?

An independent Scotland would not want to be a net contributor to the EU - funnily enough, few nations do - and I suspect that once independence is obtained, then you'd suddenly see a whole raft of economic figures issuing from the Scottish parliament demonstrating just why Scotland needs EU cash.

I'm all for Scotland going it alone (if leaving the Union, but remaining in the EU can be considered going it alone) and wish them every success if they do. I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to make a success of it if they do - but I believe you are deluding yourself if you think Scotland can maintain things like education and health at their current levels without support from England. Scotland will face some serious challenges - not least the serious decline of it's manufacturing base - but I have faith in the resolve of the Scottish people to overcome these challenges and make a success of it.

But it won't be easy for them and it won't be pain free.

Richard Thomson said...

‘Yep, I link to the CEP and the English Democrats and I support the idea of an independent England and an independent Scotland. Is that a crime?’

Not so far as I’m aware. If it is, though, then they’d better come round and lock me up as well…

‘The GERS report is an independent report and therefore more reliable - in my opinion - than any report published from the Scottish office and considerably more reliable than anything published by the SNP’.

GERS is published by the Scottish Executive, which took over the functions of the Scottish Office post-devolution. It is a part of government and is not ‘independent’ by any normal definition of the word. Did you know, however, that the aforementioned Dr Goudie is on record as saying that the GERS report ‘tells us nothing about the situation under independence?’.

‘Even so, I also looked at a lot of the official stats for Scotland - which are considerably harder to decipher, but provided such insights as the rapid decline in manufacturing output.’

Manufacturing has been on the slide in Scotland since the 1930’s. However, the service sector, particularly financial services, is roaring ahead. The decline of one industry tells you comparatively little about the whole.

That Lib Dem 21p figure simply can’t be stacked up, especially in the light of the (truly) independent Constitution Unit research. However, if the argument is that that budget deficits are illegitimate and can never be operated, you might like to conjure with the fact that if the forecast cumulative debt for the UK of £700bn by 2010 were required to be wiped out in one go, it would cost every household c. £27,000. Given the current average salary is £23,500, that would require a tax rate unseen since the days of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

‘It doesn't pain me at all if Scotland pays it's way - as part of the union or as an independent nation - but it doesn't at the moment and I don't believe it would in the immediate post independence future. Why do so many people find it so hard to admit that it doesn't?’

Well, because it’s not true, that’s why. But let’s assume that the GERS ‘borrowing requirement’ of £11.9bn (minus oil and forgetting all the errors I pointed out earlier), is both real and current. With a UK deficit of £34.8bn this year, for England to be in the position of sending a single penny northwards, Wales and Northern Ireland would have to account for the remaining £22.9bn. Highly unlikely, I’m sure you’ll agree, so even on the worst-case scenario, by that logic England won’t be paying her way either.

‘An independent Scotland would not want to be a net contributor to the EU - funnily enough, few nations do - and I suspect that once independence is obtained, then you'd suddenly see a whole raft of economic figures issuing from the Scottish parliament demonstrating just why Scotland needs EU cash.’

You’re probably right. That’s the beauty of negotiating directly.

‘But it won't be easy for them and it won't be pain free’.

Again, you’re probably right. However, the numbers do indicate that an Independent Scotland would inherit a pretty good starting position, even when taking on our fair share of UK liabilities like the national debt etc.

Looking in as an outsider, the case for an English Parliament is to my mind unanswerable. The West Lothian Question is a democratic outrage, and I think that the process of developing a civic English nationalism would do much more for social cohesion and harmony than making newcomers pledge allegiance to a Britishness to which fewer and fewer nominal Britons feel any affinity.

However, I don't see what it adds to that argument to claim that England is bailing out everyone else. Even if you did cut spending in Scotland to the UK average, the resulting money still wouldn't wipe out the spending and wealth disparities which exist throughout England.

You've got a great argument and you've right on your side - I just don't see what this sort of argument does to enhance the credibility of that case amongst your compatriots, that's all.

Best,

Richard

Tartan Hero said...

Interestingly London Mayor Ken Livingston who spent years decrying Scotland being "subsidised", has come round to the new position in Prospect magazine that actually the SNP has been right all along. Scotland more than pays its way in the UK, and now his new line is that London and Scotland subsidises the rest of the UK.

He has a very narrow interpretation of how London supposed earns money though...

Stan said...

My original post was not intended to suggest that England is bailing out Scotland - not a term I used or would use, but that I do not believe the SNP are serious about it.

I don't agree with your assessment of Scottish finances and I don't believe the SNP really do either - even though they claim to - which is why I believe that even if they win they are unlikely to commit to indpendence. The best they are likely to offer is a referendum - but no commitment to act on that referendum.

The main point, though, was that any nation - whether it be Scotland, England or Germany - can not be truly independent while they remain part of the European Union. That is what I mean by faux independence and, to be frank, I consider the notion of "independence" that the SNP peddle to be nothing less than a blatant con.

As Jim Royle would say- "Independence, my arse."