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Scottish Government abandons ‘economic case for independence’

Kate Forbes, the SNP Finance Secretary, has announced that the Scottish Government have abandoned plans to publish an annual ‘economic case for independence’, the Herald reports.

She claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic was the reason for abandoning the proposal (whilst of course insisting that it simultaneously demonstrated why Scotland should be independent).

However, it may also have something to do with the publication of the annual ‘Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland’ (GERS) figures, which show that the ‘Union dividend’ Scots enjoy from being part of the UK is now almost £2,000 per person. According to the report, £15.1 billion more spent on public services in Scotland than was raised in taxation – an increase of more than £2 billion on last year’s deficit, and one which adds up to 8.6 per cent of Scottish GDP.

This has led to warnings from economic experts that separation from the rest of the UK could (indeed, probably would) require a deep austerity programme to bring Scottish expenditure in line with revenues, especially in the event that the Nationalists tried to stick with Sterling and didn’t have recourse to their own central bank.

Unionists such as Jim Gallagher and Murdo Fraser have also not been shy about pointing out the difficulties this poses for the SNP:

“It is important to stress that the great bulk of the fiscal transfer is represented by higher per capita public spending in Scotland, not by lower tax revenues. So even if the Scottish economy performed in line with the UK average, and the tax take here was equivalent, there would still be a fiscal transfer required of over £1,600 for every person. This gives the lie to the Nationalist response to Gers, which is that, with independence, the Scottish economy could grow more rapidly”.

Yet the key question has to be: will this matter? To date the Scottish Government’s poll ratings – and as a result, signalled support for independence – appears almost entirely impervious to awkward questions about its actual performance.

Just this week Jeane Freeman, their Health Secretary, announced that she was going to stand down from Holyrood at next year’s election in the face of mounting pressure over claims that the Scottish Government pushed health boards to send elderly patients to care homes at the start of the pandemic. According to the Press & Journal: “The transfer of elderly, untested patients from hospital has been linked to the high number of Scottish care home deaths.”

Elsewhere we read about how Scottish ministers handed £30 million of public money to a ferry company on the brink of collapse, and that MSPs are having to fight to get hold of important documents related to the inquiry into the Alex Salmond scandal. Yet despite this, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP continue to poll well.

There are at least signs that the Unionists are starting to take the work of taking down the Nationalists more seriously. Douglas Ross, echoing Ruth Davidson, has now said that pro-UK campaigners made a mistake by demobilising in 2014, when they ought to have pressed their advantage. As a result, the separatists were given space to remobilise and (thanks to the cowardly and counter-productive Vow) seize control of the narrative once again. The Courier reports him as now promising “an unrelenting war on the SNP”.

Meanwhile Michael Gove, who is heading up the Government’s work on the Union, has started openly asking questions about things such as what the franchise should be in a hypothetical second referendum – much to the displeasure of the other side.

Op-eds:

  • The preservation of the Union must be a major priority of Government – Norman Tebbit, Conservative Progress
  • You can’t fight for the Union on the SNP’s terms – Stephen Daisley, Site
  • Welsh Conservatives should call ourselves Conservatives and Unionists on the ballot paper – Siôn Davies, Blue Beyond
  • Scottish Labour’s plight also hurts the cause of the Union – Sebastian Payne, FT

85 comments for: Henry Hill: SNP abandon ‘economic case for independence’ as GERS reveals that they don’t have one

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