Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Oil again

In yesterday's Guardian there was yet another story about the falling price of oil, this time telling us that Scotland would have been £15.5bn in debt if we had been independent.  It seems to be a subject of some fascination for the Unionist side, who seem to be in two minds about the whole referendum business.  On the one hand we on the independence side are constantly told that we lost the referendum, that we should get over it, that we should move on.  By and large the independence supporters have done this, although there is still a small group obsessing over electoral fraud.  Then we get stories like this one, along the lines of '... and anyway, you would have had a huge hole in your budget if you'd chosen independence'.  Well, a small majority of voters elected to stay in the union, so it's a moot point.  What's the point of bringing it up?  As it happens, it falls down on several grounds.

Firstly, had we voted for independence, we wouldn't be independent at this point.  The earliest suggested date for independence was March 2016, so we would still be under Westminster rule  It would still be Westminster's problem.

Secondly, independence was never really about the oil.  It's a nice to have, but it's not the be-all and end-all of the Scottish economy.  Scotland's GDP without oil is around 99% of that of the UK as a whole.  The bigger scandal is that the oil revenues to date have not been used to set up an oil fund, which would help to stabilise oil income in bad times such as this.

Thirdly, all this crowing about how the SNP got their figures wrong ignores that fact that the UK government's Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) also got the figures wrong (see page 113).  No-one allowed for Saudi Arabia persuading OPEC to maintain current levels of extraction, leading to a greater supply than demand, thus leading to the current low price per barrel.

The major point that they all miss, however, is that supporters of independence never thought that Scotland would be a land of milk and honey from day 1.   A large majority of us knew that there would be problems to be faced, and we still voted for independence.  For us it was about having the ability to face and solve our own problems in whatever way seemed best.  So yes, assuming that we had got immediate independence and that the price of oil fell to the current levels, there would have been a problem.  No denying it.  But there are a number of ways it could have been addressed, none of which would have necessarily involved the rUK.  It would have been for Scotland to decide.

Again, as with Saturday's stories in the Telegraph, I sense a great deal of fear from the Establishment.  Why else would they want to tell us about things that didn't happen if not to try and scare us off another referendum?

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