Sunday, 12 July 2015

All You Need Is Hate

The problem is I can't do it.

Many years ago a consultant surgeon hinted to me that I should consider taking up smoking. He couldn't say it directly of course - no medical practitioner could - but he offered the observation that many people with the chronic condition I have found that smoking helped. So I tried. I really did. But it became clear that I simply lacked the willpower to take up smoking.

When I left Islay to study in Glasgow, the first football match I went to was an Old Firm derby. I spent most of the match watching the crowd, the singing masses lyrically declaring their hatred for each across the pitch. My initial reaction was one of fascination and - I'm embarrassed to admit - a desire to be part of it. For a while I kept going to the games, I learned the songs and I too spat my hatred across the stands, singing songs referring to a history I knew nothing about. Then I grew up. I've never been back.

It appears that in Scottish politics today the ability to encourage that sort of hatred is more important than the ability to engage in (and win) rational debate. The victors are those who succeed in getting the masses to spit their hatred at "them" - at the Tories, at Westminster, at "Red Tories". It's not enough to disagree with those who have different political views; you must hate them.

Of course many in politics have long believed you have to disagree with everything your opponents say, but the SNP ratcheted it up to a whole new level during the independence referendum. Scottish Labour "stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories" in the Better Together campaign and must never be forgiven for it. This takes as given that to agree with a political opponent is something for which you should seek forgiveness, that to agree with someone on something implies you must agree with them on everything. It's an extraordinarily witless stance to adopt.

I happen to agree with much of the Tories macro-economic strategy but I think their instincts are "wrong" when it comes to how to distribute the resultant economic pain. I think the budget's "Living Wage" announcement is a cheap political trick - the reduction in tax credits redefines what would be required for the National Minimum Wage such that in fact the poorest will be net worse-off - but I applaud the principle of shifting some of the state's burden across to business. I think it's wrong to suggest reducing corporation tax is a compensatory measure for businesses impacted by the increase in the National Minimum Wage (it's not the "Living Wage" in any meaningful sense) because many of the beneficiaries will have few if any employees affected, whereas some of those businesses impacted will struggle to deliver any taxable profit. I applaud the moves to reduce the tax-avoidance opportunities available though "self-incorporation" or non-dom status, but taking some people out of higher-rate tax at the same time as reducing tax-credits for the poorest seems just wrong to me.

I could go on, but my intention here is not to critique this budget but to make a broader point: it should be possible to have an intelligent and nuanced debate about the pros and cons of policies from any party, but it's pretty hard to do that if you have to be seen to hate their every move.

It's not just the specific politics of this that should worry us. When some Scots declare their hatred for Tories they are declaring their hatred for millions of UK citizens - that should make us all uncomfortable. The same is of course true for anybody who declares their hatred for the SNP or Labour.

Surely Scots need to move away from a politics defined by visceral hatred for "them" and towards a politics driven by intelligent, nuanced and informed debate. The alternative is to go on playing this game of "hate-thy-neighbour"; I for one simply can't do that.

Maybe I lack the necessary will-power.


33 comments:

Niall Murray said...

Interesting post as ever Kevin. One comment you make does explain an issue with your work that I have been struggling with but haven't articulated in a comment as yet. When you say "happen to agree with much of the Tories macro-economic strategy" I assume you mean the pace of deficit reduction and the broad plan to balance the books. This strategy, though it has slipped in the speed of the tightening, rests largely on the idea that the deficit reduction is a relatively painless affair from a Macro point of view, and that it does not have the effect of reducing growth (and therefore ending up being self defeating). Better people than me have addressed this idea (see Simon Wren-Lewis for instance), so no point in me going over this.

The problem I have is that in your analysis on how much debt we have, you have said a few times that for an independent or FFA Scotland, closing the fiscal gap would be "doable" through increases in taxes and spending cuts. From my perspective, what is missing here is just how massive the effects would be from that level of fiscal tightening. Any country trying to get from an 8% of GDP borrowing to a 4% or lower in a very short period would be facing massive depression inducing cuts - austerity max as it were. The multiplier effect of such a sharp tightening could in fact knock you into a self defeating spiral of depression - the Greek scenario, particularly if you are sharing a currency, as we have in both the SNP Indy plan and FFA. It really isn't clear that this is doable at all, certainly not in short to medium term. And the pain would be much much worse than the £8 billion on its own.

You are of course spot on about the level of hatred.

Kevin Hague said...

I agree the pain of those cuts would be immense - when I say "doable" I'm merely responding to those who say "how come we can't be independent when ..." - the point is they need to admit to the cuts needed, then we can start to debate & explain what that means in practice

Niall Murray said...

Fair play then. I can feel your pain when dealing with some of the twitter attacks

Sheumais said...

You're much more magnanimous than I can be Kevin.

I used to regard the SNP as simply deluded, but the cynical belligerence behind the peddling of their fantasy for the referendum and the genuine fear they instilled in their opponents is unforgivable in my opinion. Combine that with basic incompetence, unabashed dishonesty and complete lack of respect for any opposing view, it is impossible for me to reserve any respect for them or their drooling support.

For basic incompetence before they placed their fiscal boot in their mouths, how about smaller primary school classes? Oh yes, that can be sorted by supplying more teachers... but where are they going to teach? It never occurred to these numpties that smaller classes also need more classrooms. That was a much-trumpeted policy running up to a Scottish election and quietly shelved when some thought was applied to it by someone else.

I remain of the opinion the No vote was adversely affected by the campaigning presence of Better Together, especially when Gordon Brown became involved, as there was sufficient doubt amongst voters as to the integrity of Alex Salmond's various proposals. That doubt must surely have increased, yet there is no more likelihood of a civil and reasoned discussion of any aspect of the SNP's "independence" fantasy now than there was in the referendum campaign. The appointment of a state guardian for all of Scotland's children should signal to the wary the authoritarian government we would have imposed upon us, with the rejection of any challenge to leadership whim within the party merely representing the final nail in the coffins of freedom and fairness.

I sometimes think the WRI could do a better job of running the UK than any recent government and can see no logic in claiming Scotland could not competently and responsibly run our own affairs, but the SNP have proven, time and again, they could not be trusted with to organise the proverbial in a brewery. That one of their number, who is well-qualified to comment, would freely admit their drive for full fiscal autonomy represented economic suicide so soon after the referendum encapsulates the contempt the SNP has not just for its opponents, but very clearly for is support too. I couldn't shake the hand of anyone who would support that.

Edwin Moore said...

The Terminator tells the young John Connor it is in our nature to destroy ourselves, an observation made probably in most cultures.

Augustine, Confession: 'For, being utterly opposed to and detesting such spectacles, he was one day met by chance by various of his acquaintance and fellow-students returning from dinner, and they with a friendly violence drew him, vehemently objecting and resisting, into the amphitheatre, on a day of these cruel and deadly shows, he thus protesting: "Though you drag my body to that place, and there place me, can you force me to give my mind and lend my eyes to these shows? "


Mhari Black summed up how many Yes voters felt about the Referendum result by describing No voters such as us as either 'gullible' or 'selfish' - we are ether dimwits or we have a moral failing. The idea that one can make a rational choice to say, for example, that the last thing we need is a border with our biggest partner by far is not on the cards for Ms Black and thsoe who think like her.

Scotland was one of the biggest witchhunting nations in Europe, but not in Catholic areas. When Westminster passed the Witchcraft Act in 1736 elements within the Kirk fumed that Westminster was taking away the Scots right to burn witches. There was always that element in Covenant Scotland wanting to seek external and internal evil to blame for the fact that Scots were manifestly not pure. Some of that is still very much with us, as Ms Black shows.

Anonymous said...

General hatred at a personal level is, of course, not helpful. But there is a structural and institutional aspect to this which cannot be dismissed, and that is the adversarial nature of British politics. It is necessary to ratchet up opposition because "losing" an argument means losing everything, not just that argument. This structure inevitably results in hyperbole. Until we have political structures that are more inclusive and less stacked towards the "winner", it is hard to understand how to engage in the political process without the oppositional stance that can be interprted as hatred.

Gareth Williams said...

@anonymous: If British politics is particularly adversarial it's surely a product of FPTP - which isn't used for Scottish parliamentary elections. However, a more 'inclusive' approach is obviously not growing from the Scottish system of PR.

The more obvious explanation for the poison is to blame nationalism. It's not as if it doesn't have form.

NedLudd said...

"Maybe I lack the necessary will-power."

Or perhaps you're just a coward?

I think hate is a perfectly acceptable reaction to people like the political establishment in the UK. They hate us, they want us to suffer, they consciously and deliberately attack us, and you think that we're supposed to have nuanced political discussions with these sociopaths? I just think you're a coward whose scared of conflict, or a Tory yourself who wants the just status quo to remain unchanged because they benefit from it in some way.

In the meantime I would recommend the following he advice of Richard Seymour that he gave to Jeremy Corbyn http://www.leninology.co.uk/2015/06/yes-you-can-hate-rich.html

Hating things that are monstrously evil is entirely appropriate.

NedLudd said...


"Mhari Black summed up how many Yes voters felt about the Referendum result by describing No voters such as us as either 'gullible' or 'selfish' - we are ether dimwits or we have a moral failing. The idea that one can make a rational choice to say, for example, that the last thing we need is a border with our biggest partner by far is not on the cards for Ms Black and thsoe who think like her."

Yeah I think she's about right with than analysis and I'm not Scottish myself but it seems that the only people who are in favour of staying ruled by an anti-Scottish Tory govt are those who are cowards, who let Project Fear get to them, or people with a vested interest in keeping the rotten power structure in place regardless of how it affected the general population and even if it meant condemning Scotland to be ruled over by Tories who have no legitimacy whatsoever north of the border.

I wouldn't use the term "moral failing" it's more likely to a material economic interest than a moral one, although I certainly do think that pro-Union Scots are often dimwits as well, and the remnants of the political class bitter at the SNP for having turned their cosy little world upside down are the biggest dimwits of the lot.

Anonymous said...

What annoys me about the 'Scottish Labour "stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories" in the Better Together campaign' is that

1) so, ultimately, did the majority of voters!, and
2) comments like that do nothing to help bring about the spirit of reconciliation, that our post-referendum political climate so desperately needs.

D

Edwin Moore said...

Oh do have a wee cup of tea, Father Fintan Stack.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8AIh2qoSnM

Les Hood said...

NedLudd you are doing it again.
People who didn't vote your way are apparently morally inferior, dim-witted or tribal.
So presumably people who did vote as you did are morally superior, more intelligent and more sophisticated.
Really?
Listen to yourself.
Listen to the reasoned other contributions here - this is cowardice? immorality? Blind tribalism? What would it take to convince you that people have legitimate, considered and values-led passionate opinions and points of view other than yours?

For example my own view is that the case for staying in the Union was entirely rational, promoted social solidarity with working people across the UK and avoided creating new barriers between people. I voted no to splitting the UK, and don't accept any of your labels in the slightest.

Neil King said...

NeddLudd said

"I'm not Scottish myself but it seems that the only people who are in favour of staying ruled by an anti-Scottish Tory govt are those who are cowards, who let Project Fear get to them, or people with a vested interest in keeping the rotten power structure in place regardless of how it affected the general population and even if it meant condemning Scotland to be ruled over by Tories who have no legitimacy whatsoever north of the border."

It's called democracy, mate. Start getting used to it.

Anonymous said...

To NedLudd...

It's 'who's', not 'whose'.

Also, in your first comment, you say: 'They hate us, they want us to suffer...'; but you go on to say in your second comment that 'I'm not Scottish myself...' So who, exactly, is 'us'?

Regardless, if they want 'us' to suffer, why, oh why do 'we' (meaning residents of Scotland, in case that's not what you were driving at when you say 'us') enjoy a shed-load more public spending per head than any other part of the UK? Maybe 'they' (whoever 'they' are) are wanting us to suffer *psychologically*, because, you know, we should feel really bad about taking far more out of the pot than we put in, and getting tons of freebies which the poor suckers in rUK don't? If that's their nefarious scheme for making us suffer, I can think of far better ways of going about it - like granting the SNP FFA; shutting Faslane, the biggest single employment site in Scotland, and moving Trident to Milford Haven; scrapping the frigate contracts; banning Scots from working in rUK or going to rUK universities; slapping export duty on whisky(!). Etc. Etc. Etc.

Still, thanks for the laugh, NedLudd...D- for grammar; A+ for paranoid outrage.

Georges Carling

User512 said...

I think NedLudd demonstrates this isn't a Scottish issue, it's one that affects the left throughout the UK. They believe so completely that their own views are "correct" and "compassionate" that anyone with different views must be either stupid or evil.

This probably seems worse in Scotland because the left dominate Scottish politics to such an extent. Being less exposed to dissenting views they are even less likely to accord them any legitimacy.

Anonymous said...


your problem is that you have always been an 'outsider'- at school, Uni and to your own family. You give so much away in these blogs. Now you have found acceptance from a little bunch of internet friends who seem to latch onto your every word, your true nastiness and resentment is there for all to see.

For someone so up himself and who likes to talk others down, shouldn't you be more successful? Weren't you supposed to be a big player in corporate finance by now Didn't have the balls for it though, eh? Or did they suss you for the interloper you are? Instead you sell Chinese plastics and cat litter on the internet. A veritable Richard Branson of the pooper scoopers.

When you can command any sort of following beyond loyalist bigots and deranged pensioners then maybe you will be taken seriously. By the way, the Unionist press count as one entity, none have any credibility beyond the London centric bubble.

You are a stooge and a narcissistic one at that.

Kevin Hague said...

Ah my dear anonymous friend - if you're going to attempt a character assassination you might want to do your research a little more thoroughly; you're shooting blanks here I'm afraid.

I won't waste my time responding further to your fevered rantings - but thank you so much for illustrating so wonderfully the nastiness that your kind (anonymous trolls) bring to political debate.

jimboandthejetset1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimboandthejetset1 said...

To the person above - I am a secondary school teacher living in the West of Scotland. I am not a 'deluded pensioner' (I am 31). My family hail from Donegal and Derry (so, call me a 'unionist' if you like ... but certainly not a 'loyalist bigot').

I find Kevin Hague's blogs informative ... Because that's what he does, you know - presents Scottish Government figures in a way the public can easliy digest. If you choose to ignore the fact that he is simply presenting data, then fine. I reckon that says more about your fragile opinion though than the aspersions you cast against the author.

Your 'ad hominems' and willingness to disregard any media you may disagree with kind of mirror the ideas expressed in this blog-piece.

But, no matter - you may not need to buy pet-supplies online; but please, try not to hate those people who do.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous:

"your problem is that you have always been an 'outsider'- at school, Uni and to your own family"

Aside from the financial impact of leaving the UK which the Yes campaign blatantly ignored, I voted No in the referendum to hopefully avoid the nasty bigotry which is Scottish nationalism from oozing out of the pavement cracks. Comments as above just prove how dangerous a Yes vote would have been on a social scale. In your words, I'm also an 'outsider'. I've lived here for over 12 years. I've gotten used to the odd anti-English jibe which is thrown at me. I've gotten used to the odd 'random' attack on my car when no-one else's has been touched in the street. Stuff like superglue on my door handles and window wipers, stones thrown at the windscreen (and house window for that matter), not to mention the odd 'keying' my car gets. All the while I have to explain to my kids that we can't have nice things because they get vandalised and aside from moving (not an option, unfortunately), there's literally nothing I can do about it.

Now, let's imagine we (as a country) voted Yes. All of a sudden, these little nasties now have (in their mind) a reasonable case to force me to 'go home'. What's next? My kids attacked at School because their Dad's not Scottish? That's when I stop ignoring it and we have a problem.

You see, whilst what you wrote were just words, there's venom there. Venom which you and others like you are ready to spit when given the opportunity. The Yes campaign (and NS) have done their very best to try and hide this ugly, nasty, bigoted side of Nationalism but I'm afraid unless they lock down social media and blogs like this, you'll always turn up just like a bad penny. Keep the venom coming. It just gives me more reason to never vote for a separatist Scotland.

sincerely

anon.

David Green said...

I can add little to the current blog, except, once again, to offer my moral support to its author. However, I would draw attention to what I might term as the "geographical fallacy" assumed by several of your critics. Democracies contain a range of viewpoints on a range of topics. I have yet to find a single person who matches mine. Even my wife disagrees with some of my views and opinions. But I can identify groups that overlap mine, and on important issues, we can generate Venn diagrams with considerable overlap. Venn diagrams define the Labour or Conservative party, to take just two parties. The Venn diagram I overlap most may change with time (for example, when a leader changes), and I may be faced with two parties with equal overlap (Labour or Conservative, for example). Usually, the supporters of each aggregate are disseminated throughout a sovereign, but occasionally, the Venn diagram for a party overlaps with a tight geographical entity. The SNP comes to mind. At Westminster, the SNP has 58 votes out of 650. But by exploiting the geographical fallacy, it generates a construct in which it has 58 out of 59. In their eyes, this eliminates the legitimacy of 591 votes, creating a two-tier system. Pragmatic English politicians recognise the emotional power of the geographical fallacy, and simply as a matter of observation, are prepared to make some delegation of powers. Of course, the SNP had hoped to configure the Commons to give themselves influence out of proportion to their numbers, but the projected concessions to the "geographical fallacy" espoused by the SNP so frightened the English, that it destroyed the Lib Dems and damaged Labour in England. Scotland has yet to reach its Tsipras moment, when its electorate rejects the crazy policies of Sturgeon, Swinney, Hosie, etc. But it will come unless the English, in paternalistic fashion, can join forces with the Scottish opposition to the SNP, and hold off the disaster. It won't have much political purity to it, but it will make most Scots better off. Not a bad objective for the Union.

Peter said...

This is a tough & complex one, Kevin. (I'll need to put it in three bits - please skip, any reader, who finds this a bore!)

First, congratulations for taking on a spiky theme - beyond your usual discussions of de/mystified figures.

It takes a certain confidence to admit what may appear as a weakness to exploitative opponents - or at least, be happily represented by them as such. Though one person's "weakness" is another's strength, there are always those who can't or won't see any sign of a personal admission as anything but proof of the certain, unquestioning superiority of their own position, and/or an opportunity for a quick "kill".

2) I believe there are different sorts of hatred. And not only because supposed "hate" may be a case of an offender compounding the offence by blaming the assaulted: those with a habit of vitriolic abuse towards others not infrequently cut any response with the taunt "haters gonna hate". If such people were referring to themselves, they'd at least have a (trite but) valid point.

There is the visceral expression of a conviction of deep injustice done to you and "yours" (or anonymous others invoked as being like you). The perception may be justified, or not: in either case, hate is often projected on the nearest, most available victim.

A bit different is the expedient hatred of the more calculated political slogans, such as "Red Tories". This second sort often has a different tone from the visceral type: with all the sneer, but without the expectorations. And in the mentioned case, corny - a centrally-coordinated chant in belated revenge for the "Tartan Tories" accusation when the SNP has allied itself with the Conservatives. Such "campaign hate" often sounds more like manufactured outrage: it feeds off such events as one of Geo Osborne's trademark cynical traps (the Budget Responsibility Charter of January 2015, where Labour were invited to impale themselves on a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" question: Yes = "responsible" economic policy, or No (or abstain) = gross economic irresponsibility). And manipulating this, the SNP launched its class betrayal fabrication, "Ha, ha Labour gets into bed with the Tories, voted for £30bn cuts - RED TORIES!!"

btw, more on that "slogan of hate", and its myth: http://labourhame.com/the-big-lie-how-the-snp-deceived-the-scottish-public/

Peter said...

3) Let's assume we're talking only about the first variety: unadulterated, visceral hate.

The popular weapons of scorn, provocation, loathing, attempted humiliation, would-be annihilation of others is always corrosive: often deliberately. (For those who resort to such weapons as a matter of course, there's usually no difference between irony and sarcasm: it's all one axe in a bitter running battle.) But these emotional-psychological weapons are often as damaging and destructive to the wielder's integrity as to the target's peace of mind. However much the wielder scythes and flames at arm's length from any official organisation: a member not noticed by his look-away party.

But here's the tough part. In airing urgent, controversial/heated issues of political policies and conduct, and public behaviours of individuals, the emotional-psychological component is very much to the fore. Here: heart and hate can be extremely difficult to keep apart: it is a fire that can consume us all. Hatred seems always to seek to perpetuate itself, and it is all too easy to be "drawn in", however much against one's will. Those who prefer to eschew reasoned debate, avoid (good) evidence, and avoid more generous interaction, often make use of this as vicious circle of fire to entrap the target: "you're no better/you're a hater", etc. And passing observers all too easily conclude that two fiery scrappers are two equally blameworthy idiots. The original issues, the original objective problems, are obscured. Aggression wins.

4) It's for such reasons that fire is best kept in check, to avoid the running conflagrations that best serve the purpose only of those arsonists who throw fire with intent - and of those who are happy to have expedient fire spread by agents in their interests: looking away and refusing to accept that such firebugging is in any sense within their arms' length.

But it is tough, holding back, to the point of abstaining from exchanges altogether, because you see a forest aflame and do what?

Personally speaking, I've always tried to keep hatred of even the worst political practices (and views supporting these) free of personal acrimony and abuse from my side. I try to treat everyone (well, as far as humanly possible!) with a basic human respect, even if I their point of view is abhorrent to me, and/or I despise what they are advocating/justifying.

More than that, for practical reasons as well as general ethical and social standards, I've long learnt to try always to leave people space for a dignified exit: room to step back and (re)consider (whether or not this step back is admitted), rather than baring exaggerated fangs and going for the jugular, a kill, a vain victory, or less melodramatically, the misery of a great sense of futility engendered in the person attacked.

Likewise, I don't react positively to being vilified, though I always try to rise above it (also tough at times). "Don't react positively", meaning: I'm generally less inclined to consider the validity of any point I don't (at the moment) accept if its proponent finds the point requires added venom; or considers it less important to open my mind than to split my head.

Peter said...

Twitter is a particular problem. Beyond its original basic purpose of publicity/appeals (w weblinks) - a snappy PA tool, with optional quips - its brevity and lightning pace are ideally suited to sniping, flaming, provoking, and running. Its "global telegram" format is anything but tailored to well-considered, multi-faceted and generous debate.

The passing anonymity of many cyberspace encounters - heightened if the anonymity is sealed with "identity-free nameless masks" - can make aggression particularly inviting: assault with impunity and no sense of personal responsibility. "Hit, and run".

You may be pitied as a soft-headed fool if you take the time, effort & forbearance to try any different route of human interaction.

Another reason you have always to think, and think again, who to engage with (at all) in social media, and what to leave, even if this means with hate taunts of a "determined last-worder" ringing around your ears.

5) Sometimes it feels like the answer may be to withdraw altogether from the attritional fripperies of Twitter and such outlets. (V difficult if you are professionally bound - as a journalist or publicist - to news-tickers and other PA channels, even if you're one who adopts a policy never to reply.)

Or at least impose a self-denying ordinance on time, on what and who to engage with, beyond an initial encounter & assessment of the human quality, and quantity of hate, evident in the other.

PS: Something else I've learnt always to have an eye for - on Twitter, in online exchanges generally - is the possibility your interlocutor may have particular learning difficulties.

(I have come to think most of us are located, if hopefully not altogether rooted, at some point along a long spectrum of social, emotional, intellectual and psychological difficulties - the "naturally reckless" as much as the "unusually retiring", the brashly overconfident as well as the anxiously underconfident. The development of empathy may come more easily if we concede this.)

This is no disrespect to those who suffer from conditions of this sort, or belittlement of their difficulties. (Rather, it is the flaming attackers who tend most readily to pull the trigger of primitive labels to "write off" their "enemies".)

But, in my experience at least, one should remain aware that some of the most persistent, outrageous and perhaps irrational vituperation, ideally suited to Twitter and such online opportunities - whatever the column of supposed political beliefs - may come from those whose social inhibitions and interpersonal responsive capacities are extraordinarily underdeveloped.

Polly said...

Sadly I think hate/blame has always been the greatest tool at a politician's disposal. The essence of populist politics (and the SNP are simply an example of one successful populist party among many across Europe) has always been the idea that every problem in society can be pinned on to the influence of one group of people - an establishment elite, a foreign power, global finance, the EU, immigrants, minorities. It's a formula that often proves wildly successful because it speaks to people's innate prejudices about particular groups, while also positing that there's an easy quick-fix for all of our problems: if we simply get rid of that group's influence, or pursue some course of action that the "establishment" don't want to allow, society will improve immensely by default.

Of course who it is that's to blame changes depending on the party. Populist parties often put great stock in the idea that their particular party is different - and indeed it's ridiculous to compare racist parties like Golden Dawn or the BNP with parties like the SNP in terms of their wider policies. But the net impact of this kind of narrative is always the same - it pushes all reasonable discussion off the agenda and it prevents people from properly engaging with real problems. It reduces society down to groups of "us" and "them" and claims that anyone who isn't with us is against us - hence the obsession with media bias on pro-independence blogs, the desire to pretend every report that contradicts independence is the work of unionist propagandists, the desire to shout down anyone who disagrees rather than engaging with what they've said, etc.

And that does us all an injustice. I voted No, but although I think the economic argument is pretty clear cut (in the short-term at any rate) I can understand people backing Yes for a variety of other reasons. It's a complex issue and I completely respect the fact that intelligent people will weigh up the factors and come to a different view from my own. We never had that kind of discussion, though, because it was hijacked by populist politics.

Kevin Hague said...

Thank you Polly - I couldn't agree more

Robin Fox said...


Nicola Sturgeon will address the Foreign Correspondents Club at 9.00 on Friday 31 July. See you there, I hope.

AS said...

Hi Kevin,

I've got quite a funny idea for your next post ... I take it you may have seen some material on Scotland's revenues and expenditures from 1920-21 floating around, which has been used by Nats have been using as 'proof' that Scotland was subsidising EWNI 'even then'.

See this just recently: https://twitter.com/MrMalky/status/626104056453443584/photo/1

And these posts last year: http://wingsoverscotland.com/before-the-oil-the-deluge/
http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-historical-debt/

This piqued my interest, so I took a look at this data, and it turns out the nats even then were indulging in fantasy economics, as they were leaving out a whopping 75% of total expenditure, simply because it wasn't directly allocated to either England (including Wales), Scotland or Ireland. This unallocated expenditure is termed, in the spirit of the time, 'Imperial Services', but in fact contains: financing of national debt, defense spending, some costs of government (e.g. civil list), the road fund, and some unallocated spending voted for by parliament, some post service spending, and some customs & excise and inland revenue spending. There's also some unallocated revenue, but this isn't nearly as significant.

It would not be unreasonable to allocate a share of general revenue and this 'Imperial Services' spending according to either shares of allocated revenues and expenditures or by population share in order to construct a kind of proto-GERS. Here are the results, in 1920-21 pounds:

England and Wales Scotland Ireland

Allocated Revenue: £920,430,000.00 £120,386,000.00 £45,806,000.00
Pop. Share of Other Revenue: £288,820,067.63 £37,220,532.56 £14,261,399.81
Total Revenue: £1,211,054,552.07 £156,069,817.99 £59,799,629.93

Allocated Spending: £231,436,500.00 £33,096,000.00 £32,976,000.00
Pop. Share of Imperial Services: £762,079,478.56 £98,209,948.77 £37,630,072.67
Total Expenditure: £993,515,978.56 £131,305,948.77 £70,606,072.67

Per Capita Surplus: £5.74 £0.65 -£0.29

So we see that the picture changes when we drop Campbell's implicit assumption that an independent 1920 Scotland would have had no army, no navy, no air force, no national debt, no roads, and a much reduced share of everything else. The UK was in surplus, most of which was in fact contributed by England and Wales, with Scotland and Ireland just about paying their way.

I used the data on the Campbell's post for this, along with data on the UK population in 1921. There's more going back to 1900 which I could do if you're interested. You could then form a time series from 1900 to present, with a gap between 1920-21, when this data stopped being published, and the beginning of GERS. Regards,

AS

Kevin Hague said...

Thanks AS - that is indeed all interesting.

At the moment I'm trying to focus on my day job and try to avoid getting bogged down in older numbers arguments as it is rather pointless. Very handy you have done this work though!

AS said...

Hi Kevin,

I'll let you know when I've got the finished product. Apparently the original reports go all the way from 1889/1890 to 1920/21, with some follow-ups in 1924/25, 1931/32, 1934/35 and 1952/53, and the great thing is that I've been able to retrieve them all through my university.

From then on, there's apparently nothing til 1980/81, the starting year of the Scottish Government's experimental 'historical' GERS figures, which then overlap with GERS proper.

I've already entered most of this into an extended version of this chart of yours:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ZPcz2qSDp0o/VTvJhxCX5PI/AAAAAAAAA14/Fd1xAuy_m4Y/s1600/pretty_summary.png

And let me tell you, it is a thing to behold.

AS

P.S. that final line of figures in my last post were wrong (spreadsheet error), Scotland's figure should be nearly as much as England's

User512 said...

The treasury also published a "Scottish Budget" in 1969 along the same lines, if you can find that through the university.

AS said...

Thanks User512,

The 1969 Scottish Budget looks like it may prove difficult to get hold of, but the library has a copy of Gavin McCrone's own estimates (which differ only marginally) based on the same year's data from "Scotland's Future: The Economics of Nationalism".

I also found a wonderful exchange in Hansard with the then SNP MP for Hamilton, Winnie Ewing, arguing that the treasury had made Scotland's budget position look worse than it was. Dickson Mabon (then Labour MP for Bute and North Ayrshire) goes on to demolish Mrs Ewing's "Alice-in-Wonderland arithmetic", in particular mocking her assumptions about the distribution of whisky duties:

"consider the question of whisky, a beverage which I much enjoy. The hon. Lady estimated the duty on beer and whisky as a fascinating exercise into higher absurdities. First she made the assumption that the Scots and English drink the same amount. Then she said that the Scots drink all the whisky and the English all the beer. But since, unfortunately, there are 10 times more English and Welsh than Scots, one must agree that "Facts are chiels that winna ding".

However, she went on to speak of what she called the "middle balance ", and somehow worked out that the Scots drink 55 per cent. of all whisky produced in Scotland. If that, in the view of her party, is what should happen, and if that is their general policy, then we and the Tories must surely lose. She may think 799 this to be a very good argument to have as part of S.N.P. policy, but it is fundamentally wrong and the House cannot put up with it."

Plus ca change!

By the way, you've also caused me to stumble upon some academic estimates for 1924/25, 1928/29, 1938/39, 1944/45 and 1948/49. Taken together, this should fill the gaps in very nicely, so thanks again.

AS

Anonymous said...

The SNP seniors have spawned a new level of hate within their supporters by personally attacking everyone that oppose their own viewpoints.

The latest tactic of some of their supporters is to have started to boycott products with a Union Jack on their packaging , products like Hovis bread even when those responsible are aware the bakeries that provide the goods are actually in Scotland and therefore have the potential to affect the Scottish jobs market.

Will the SNP themselves take any action to try to stop this ? I doubt it because that might mean losing votes by offending bigotted people who were brainwashed and indoctinated by the SNP's own rhetoric.

When Salmonds attacks on individuals and the BBC are so visible to supporters the supporters themselves merely copy the same behaviour as it appears to be seen as being acceptable or is even encouraged by the SNP seniors.