Thursday, 12 March 2015

Weakness is strength

Yesterday the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figure for last year were published.  They show a worse position than previous years, mainly due to the falling price of oil.  Scotland saw its revenues per head fall but, interestingly, the tax take rose, amounting to some £400 per head higher than elsewhere in the UK.  So, not the best of years for Scotland, but all countries expect to have good years and bad years. 

Needless to say, Unionists have been doing quite a bit of crowing about this, claiming it as definitive proof that Scotland could never survive as an independent country, since it clearly needs subsidies from the rest of the UK.  However, it doesn't seem to occur to them that this state of affairs has come about under the management of the Union, so is hardly a ringing endorsement.  Scotland is a country rich in natural resources and human capital, and any other country starting out with those advantages would be very, very happy.

And yet we also have the other side of the coin going on at the moment.  Over the last few days we have had quite a few articles threatening mayhem if Labour should do any sort of deal with the SNP after the election in order to get into power.  Yesterday at Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs) there was a particularly ill-tempered exchange between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, in which Mr Cameron challenged Mr Miliband to definitively rule out any sort of deal with the SNP, while Mr Miliband scorned Mr Cameron over his reluctance to take part in a head-to-head debate.

So, on the one hand we are incompetent, stupid, totally unsuited to run a country, but on the other we are to be feared if we return a large enough bloc of MPs with Scotland's interests first and foremost in their sights.  The barbarian horde at the gate almost.

So the question from the referendum remains.  If we are 'too wee, too poor, too stupid', why are the UK so desperate to hang on to us?  Surely it would be better for their bank balance to let us go.  The answer is, I think, twofold.  Firstly they need our natural resources and exports to prop up the economy.  Secondly, a successful independent Scotland on their doorstep would not play well with the electorate in the rUK.  If they saw a small, prosperous nation taking care of its people as the Scottish government does now, there would be questions asked about why it couldn't be the same in rUK, and that's a risk they are not prepared to take.

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