During the Scottish referendum campaign, the SNP claimed that an independent Scotland would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Many Nationalists fervently believed it. Not only that, they became convinced that the other nations of the Union were leeching off Scotland. Scotland wasn’t subsidised, it was subsidising the UK and would be richer for leaving.
The fragile economic case was based on the transparent idea that the SNP could end austerity, spend more and not have to raise taxes. Enough people saw through this duplicity to vote to keep the UK together.
The publication of the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland statistics (GERS) has now destroyed the economic argument for independence. Scotland has a fiscal deficit of 9.5% of GDP; that’s almost £15 billion! To put the numbers into context, the UK deficit is 4.5% of GDP, the deficit in impoverished Greece is 7.2%. No other country in the developed world has such a potentially dangerous gap between spending and taxes collected. If it weren’t for the vote for “no”, the SNP would have had their incompetence and superficiality exposed for all to see.
The Scottish government spends £127 for every £100 it raises in tax. This is only possible because of it is part of the United Kingdom; for every £100 spent per head in England, £120 per head is spent in Scotland. As we are one country, I think it is quite right that the regions are subsidised; but there is a limit. The Scottish state is hugely bloated and should be streamlined, but it seems unlikely given the SNP’s creepy statist mentality.
The response to the figures from the SNP has been woeful.
Nicola Sturgeon said that borrowing would have a “significant role” to play in cutting the 9.7% deficit. The deficit is the amount that’s borrowed… she proposes borrowing more to cut the deficit. This is astounding economic illiteracy. She also suggested that onshore growth would help to plug the gap and denied that Scotland benefits from being in the UK. Reality check; it is the UK government that makes up the £15bn shortfall between Scottish spending and revenues.
Here’s another utterly astounding figure. The SNP independence blueprint forecast North Sea oil revenues would be just under £8 billion by 2015/16. The actual figure is £60 million. So, only £7,940,000,000 off. Incredible, in every sense of the word.
There is no getting away from it. If Scotland had voted for “independence”, it would now be in very serious economic trouble indeed. It would be facing very severe austerity and looking for help from foreign banks. The SNP case for leaving the Union was dangerously irresponsible and economically disastrous. The White Paper for independence was utter garbage.
In the quest for a second referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has said that, after Brexit, the UK ‘is no longer a safe haven’ for Scotland. Yet to join the European Union, Scotland’s deficit would need to be below 3%. So that leaves a choice between cutting state spending by 15% or raising taxes by 19% or, more likely, raising taxes and implementing harsh austerity measures. And for what? To be governed from Brussels and Frankfurt instead of Westminster? That is not any kind of independence.
The economic case is dead, if not the emotional one. If it decided to puruse an emotional case for ending the union, could Scotland afford it? Of course it could. After some rapid and very aggressive financial shock treatment, it could afford it. But why? What is the benefit? To swap one union for another? To get rid of the resented English? Or for the pride of nominal independence with a much reduced state (forget about free university and other such luxuries for a start), higher taxes and probable reliance on a foreign central bank.
This should be another warning for the SNP. The electorate decided it did not want to leave the UK just two years ago. There has been no dramatic shift in public opinion since then. Perhaps it’s time to concentrate on governing Scotland competently?
The SNP has new powers which it has yet to use. It has had nine years to prove that a devolved Scottish government will make better decisions on everything from education to healthcare than Westminster. Yet the education system in Scotland is demonstrably poorer than its English counterpart. The NHS in Scotland is not better than the one in England. The centralisation of the police in Scotland has been a complete and utter folly. The story of the SNP governing Scotland is one of utter failure, and we now have clear proof that the Nationalists would’ve bankrupted Scotland. What is really needed is for the SNP’s unhealthy dominance of Scotland to be broken, for an end to the one party state, and for more Scottish people to see through the Party forever leading them on.
Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Online Director. Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty