I wrote an intemperate rant on Facebook today as I didn't have the the time to write a blog post in my normal (I hope) more reasoned style. I've now taken the time to tidy it up and add in the data graphs that illustrate my points.
I had my attention drawn to this piece by SNP MP Joan McAlpine in today's Daily Record
She says politicians are mocking Scotland over the fall in oil prices. Mocking the SNP is not mocking Scotland; it's mocking the SNP. The SNP deserve mockery for basing the economic case for an independent Scotland on oil revenues of £6.8 - 7.9bn a year (when in fact we're now looking at £0.1 - 0.2bn a year).
She suggests Scots deserve an apology. We do - an apology from the SNP for trying to win a Yes vote on the basis of a demonstrably false prospectus.
She says Kez Dugdale appears to blame the SNP for the falling oil price. Kez was actually blaming the SNP for trying to win a Yes vote by making demonstrably (at the time) unrealistic oil revenue projections.
She asserts Scotland will - over a decade - have "lost" £3.9bn under the Tories as we take our share of austerity cuts. The alternative would be of course for us to increase our share of the debt by £3.9bn (at least in the short term - we can debate the pros and cons of Tory austerity another day). The difference between the White Paper "low case" oil forecast and current OBR forecasts over the next decade is c. £67bn (that's right - I haven't missed a decimal point there) - an issue which is literally an order of magnitude bigger than "Tory austerity".
She asks why Labour don't have more to say about that "vindictive attack on our people" - whilst spending the majority of her article attacking Scottish Labour. Joan being Joan we can infer that by "our people" she means Scots - neglecting the fact that we are simply taking our share of the UK's pain. Scots are not suffering more than the rest of the UK, so there's nothing "vindictive" about it. Of course because of Barnett, because of "pooling and sharing", we are suffering far less than we would if her party had fooled us into voting Yes.
She says the "unionist parties" claim the oil slump makes independence impossible. Nobody claims it makes independence economically impossible, merely that the (now undoubted) economic hardship it would cause makes it politically extremely unlikely.
She says "wealth per head in Scotland would be similar to the UK without including oil" and the Yes campaign "always said oil was just a bonus". We surely all see through this by now? By "wealth" she means GDP, from whence our taxes generate revenue. But she ignores the spend per head that (per the Scottish Government's own GERS figures) show us consistently c.£1,700 per head worse off than the rest of the UK without oil. That grosses up to £9bn a year.
We are used to high levels of public spending in Scotland that we simply couldn't sustain were we independent without booming oil revenues. If Joan thinks austerity cuts of £0.4bn pa are unbearable, how on earth would she describe the £9.0bn pa of cuts (or increased taxes) that an independent (or FFA) Scotland would need without oil? Oil is no more a bonus than being able to fund Scotland's entire education and training budget (£7.6bn) is a bonus.
She misquotes Standard & Poors (because she doesn't understand credit ratings) and quotes a credit report made before the oil slump. In fact Standard and Poor's said: "In brief, we would expect Scotland to benefit from all the attributes of an investment-grade sovereign credit [rating]". That means BBB- or higher. There are 8 grades between BBB- and the UK's AAA.
She makes the observation that nobody predicted this level of oil price slump (which is true; not even Standard & Poors did) but ignores the fact that the White Paper low oil revenue forecast was £2 - 5bn higher than the OBR forecasts that existed at that time. That's the Office for Budget Responsibility, the people the UK government rely on - the clue is in the name.
She asserts the oil price will rise again, ignoring the fact that it's North Sea profit that generates tax revenues ... and that profitability (due to rising extraction costs as fields mature) is in long term structural decline. The last time oil was at $100/bbl was in 2014 and we generated just £2.6bn in oil revenue. The White Paper "low" scenario was for £6.8bn (implicitly in perpetuity) and tax rates have been reduced since then (in an attempt to protect oil industry jobs). Implying the economic case for indy will be repaired by an oil price rise is simply nonsense - even before you factor in the volatility risk.
She rants about the fact there wasn't an oil fund built. This is a point that is as true for the UK as it is for Scotland; it has absolutely nothing to do with the future, with the choices we (whether as the UK or as Scotland) now face. Needless to say if we (the UK) had created an oil fund then we (the UK, including Scotland) would have had to pay higher taxes or enjoyed lower spending to fund it. We were at the party, we drank our fair share.
She talks of a "massive transfer of wealth" from Scotland to the UK. The Scottish Government's own figures show that this is nonsense. We were a massive contributor in the 1980's, on average we've been a large beneficiary since and certainly right now - to adopt Joan's language - there's a "massive transfer of wealth" taking place from the rest of the UK to Scotland. That's how pooling & sharing works.
She asserts (ridiculously) that the UK "would have gone bust" without oil. That statement doesn't even merit a rebuttal.
Finally she suggests an apology is called for. She's right: the SNP and the wider Yes campaign should be apologising for presenting a hopelessly optimistic economic case in their attempt to win a Yes vote. If they'd succeeded the Scottish people would be facing a level of economic hardship that would make current austerity measures seem trivial.
I would also suggest that Joan should apologise for writing this nasty, vindictive, grievance mongering article in a national paper.