Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Review of the SNP
The Scottish parliament
might well qualify as the most unreported, most ignored, most inactive
legislature in the western world.
Scotland's do-nothing legislators may enjoy extensive powers over such
vital matters as education, health care, justice, policing and local
services, as well as tax and social security, but do they have the
faintest idea how to use them? They keep wanting more and more power but
there is no evidence they know how to use it.
Fraser of Allander Institute director Prof Graeme Roy said the latest
output figures were "deeply disappointing" and confirmed a more general
slowdown in Scotland's economy.
He said: "With the Scottish economy shrinking in the final quarter of
2016, this means that the Scottish economy did not grow at all through
"At a time when the UK economy grew at 1.8% over the same period, this
is a serious cause for concern.
"With any Brexit
uncertainty affecting the UK as well, it's hard to argue that Scotland's
relatively weaker performance can be explained by the outcome of the EU
He added: "While the downturn in the oil and gas sector remains part of
the explanation, it is difficult to ignore the substantial declines in
construction over the past year (-6%) or in manufacturing (-7.3%) - with
all areas of manufacturing, not just those tied to the North Sea supply
chain, shrinking during 2016."
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce called for urgent government action to
restore confidence in the Scottish economy.
Chief executive Liz Cameron said: "The news that Scotland's economy is
contracting at a time when the overall UK economy is growing healthily
must ring alarm bells for both the Scottish and UK governments.
"While Scotland's growth has been sluggish since the fall in oil prices
in 2015, the evidence now shows that no sector in the Scottish economy
is experiencing growth, with production and construction falling and our
service sector flatlining."
The GMB union said the figures showed that sluggish growth in Scotland
could no longer just be blamed on Brexit, and raised the prospect of a
“sleepwalk back to recession”. GMB Scottish secretary Gary Smith said:
“The news is full of political noise at the moment – but underneath all
the words is a harsh, tough reality for the people of Scotland. “These
GDP figures show once again how the economy is struggling; unemployment
is up; insecure employment is growing faster here; public sector workers
and service users are being hit by huge cuts and those cuts in public
services will get worse in the years ahead. “And our politicians seem to
be more interested in pursuing their own pet projects than confronting
"It is important to note that that GERS is a national Statistics
publication and assessed by the independent UK Statistics Authority. The
statistics are produced by civil servants, and not by a partisan group,
and are best practice in the sense that they meet the Code of Practice
for Official Statistics, a code that is consistent with the European
Statistics Code of Practice.
“All economic statistics involve sampling and estimates. But when the UK
Statistics Authority designate figures as ‘National Statistics’ that’s
hugely significant. This is a kite-mark showing they meet international
statistical standards. Anybody who says these figures are “easily
rigged” or “nonsense data” frankly doesn’t deserve to be taken
seriously. The people who work to create these statistics are honest,
hard-working and dedicated public servants who aren’t allowed to answer
back to defend themselves. Anyone who questions our national
statisticians’ honesty and integrity should take a hard look at
On Wednesday (22/03/2017), SNP MSP Joan McAlpine used her column in the
Daily Record to attempt to cast doubt on her own Scottish Government’s
GERS figures, the official numbers that tell us how Scotland’s economy
performs. When oil was booming, McAlpine and her SNP colleagues were
quick to quote GERS figures as proof that Scotland was a wealthy
country, so this U-turn might seem surprising.
If McAlpine’s column represents an approved party line, it looks an
awful lot as if the SNP are trying to avoid an honest debate about the
economic challenges an independent Scotland would now face.
Nicola Sturgeon once famously said that her party’s obsession with
independence “transcends the issues of Brexit, of oil, of national
wealth and balance sheets and of passing political fads and trends”.
This is really just a long-winded way of saying “independence or bust”.
I believe her too. On the SNP’s watch our education system has declined
from being one of the best in the world to being no more than average.
Hospital waiting times in the fully devolved Scottish NHS have risen.
Having been granted the tax powers to redistribute wealth more fairly
and the welfare powers to top-up benefits for those hardest hit by
austerity, the SNP have chosen inaction. This is what happens when you
have a party governing Scotland who dismiss anything other than
furthering the cause of separation as “passing political fads”.
In the UK we currently pay about £150 per person a year as members of
the EU. In contrast, Scots are currently “paid” (receive an effective
net fiscal transfer of) £1,700 per person a year as members of the UK5.
This is money we’d immediately lose if we left, it’s a direct benefit of
the on-going pooling and sharing the No vote guaranteed.
Then there’s the practical question of when and under what conditions
Scotland might actually join the EU if we leave the UK. Given we don’t
have our own stable currency and run what in EU terms is called an
“excessive deficit”, there are no guarantees. An independence referendum
could well see Scotland end up outside the UK and outside the EU,
further isolated in an increasingly uncertain and unstable world.
Scotland exports over four times as much to the rest of the UK than to
the EU and that – over a period when we have enjoyed free access to both
markets - exports to the rest of the UK have grown much faster than
those to the EU.
The fact that the SNP are cutting Central Government funding to local
government is their choice, not something that’s forced upon them - just
as the fact that the SNP don’t use their income tax and benefits top-up
powers to reduce tax for low-earners, redistribute wealth and address
inequality is their choice.
Next time you hear UK austerity being blamed for specific Scottish
budget cuts, remember this simple fact: over the four years from 2013-14
to 2017-18, the Total Scottish Budget has been increased in real terms
by £1.9bn or 5.4% .
It really is long past time the SNP stopped blaming Westminster for
their own failings.
Overall I call on Scots to visit the
site for the best explanation of Scottish finances.
I also call on Scots to consider not voting for the SNP and if they do
want an Independent Scotland then create a new party that puts Scotland
first and is honest with the people.
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