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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.

The full article can be read on the Scottish Review

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 2016.

"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 referendum."

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 the problem.”

"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 themselves.”

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 chokkablog 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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