Sunday, 16 October 2016

Salmond Spins Again

Alex Salmond once proudly boasted  of his ability to put “a gloss on statistics or any economic figure” to build a political case. It's an assertion predicated on his belief that ordinary voters just aren't smart enough to spot when they're being misled by him, on the toweringly arrogant assumption that he's simply too smart for us.

His performance on BBC Radio 5 live's Pienaar's Politics this morning is a case in point. When asked to explain away the problem of Scotland's £15bn deficit (per the most recent Scottish Government GERS figures) he referred to a "£30 - 35 billion" saving we could make from central UK spend attributed to Scotland.

This is clearly bunkum of the highest order. The true figure (comparable with the £15bn annual deficit in question and related to the spend categories he cites) is in fact less than £0.5bn. He clearly does have nothing but contempt for the intelligence of listening voters.

Before we unpick his assertion and explain why it's so ludicrous, it's worth taking a quick skip through the rest of his scoffing and chuckling performance. You can listen to it all here [starts at 08:00]

He starts by dancing around the subject of opinion polls, presumably hoping his bluster will disguise the fact that none of the post-Brexit polls have shown majority support for Scottish independence.

It's been pointed out to me that at least one poll here did show a lead for independence immediately following the Brexit vote
*correction ends*

When Pienaar suggests that the demand from Sturgeon that "Scotland somehow retains access to the free open market of Europe, even though that may be lost to rest of the UK [...] seems to be a constitutional, political and practical impossibility" he repeatedly ducks the question.

Instead of explaining how his might be possible, he talks about the downside of the UK's exit from the single market-place by saying "we know that the expectation within Her Majesty's Treasury is that an exit from the single marketplace will cost 20% of trade and investment".

Whilst this is broadly true1, Salmond shows his customary brass-neck to quote these figures when he previously rubbished similar HM Treasury analysis which suggested independence would cost Scotland around £1,400 per person per year2. This is of course classic Salmond: dismiss credible sources if you don't like what they say, quote them as gospel if they support your case. For what it's worth I applaud his volte-face and new-found respect for the Treasury's economic analysis. Surely only a deeply cynical and duplicitous politician would be prepared to then change his position again if and when the Treasury next reveals unhelpful truths about the economic implications of Scottish independence.

At the time he contended instead that independence would in fact give each person in Scotland a £1,000 "bonus of independence". Salmond's dismissal of the Treasury claim and his own party's ludicrous assertion have since been shown to be simply and unequivocally wrong. The truth is that the actual decline in oil revenues has been even worse than HM Treasury predicted, so the "£1,400 worse off" analysis was in fact optimistic. 

He then offers some nonsense around negotiation tactics, asserting that he's "never heard of a negotiation which tries and keeps your objectives a secret" - as if publicly stating your negotiating position is the only option. In fact later in the interview he undermines his own argument by suggesting that Theresa May should put her specific objectives before the House of Commons before entering negotiation because  "how will you win afterwards when you inevitably won't have achieved all of your objectives?" The flaw in this argument is obvious: what's the point in publicising and seeking approval for something you "inevitably" won't achieve?

Pienaar tries to return to the core question, pointing out that for Scotland to remain in the EU market if the UK exits "you'd have to have a hard border between Scotland and England". Salmond doesn't explain how that could be avoided, instead asking "how is the government stating that there's not going to be a hard border between RoI and NI?" I would suggest that that too is a good question, but it's certainly not an answer (particularly when it comes to the customs controls which are required between EEA and EU members).

So far so normal for a political interview: bluster, obfuscation and logical inconsistency. But things get more interesting when the subject switches to the wider question of Scotland's economic performance.

Unfortunately, John Pienaar wasn't well briefed. He starts by wrongly stating that "Scottish output has shrunk, has contracted" since the Brexit vote. Salmond is rightly able to rebut that claim, but - because it's undeniable - concedes the fact that growth in the Scottish economy has slowed both in absolute terms3 and relative to the UK4.

When explaining the relative economic slow-down, Salmon (correctly in my opinion) is very clear on the main cause, suggesting it's "as a result, incidently, of the onshore effects of oil & gas" and referring to "perhaps 30,000 job losses affected by the down-turn in North Sea activity". Nothing to do with evil Westminster then.

It's worth noting that the GDP measure used for the growth statistics Salmond quotes exclude oil & gas extraction5Scotland's GDP (including the Sottish Government's preferred geographic allocation of oil revenue) did decline from £157.5bn to £156.8bn in 2015-166, a 0.5% contraction. 

Whether the relative slow-down is purely due to the knock-on onshore effects of the problems in the oil & gas industry, fears of further uncertainty around a second independence referendum or other factors is a subject for another day.

The fact that Salmond attributes the slow-down to Oil & Gas will come as a terrible shock to the Nationalist's very own self-styled hate-preacher, the "Reverend" Stuart Campbell, (custodian of the risible "Wings Over Scotland") who recently asserted "the lower oil price will actually benefit the Scottish economy overall, with the positive effects driving growth and outweighing the downside of lower corporation tax receipts."

Salmond goes on to note that Scottish unemployment is returning to lower than the UK average and employment is now higher. Given that he and Nicola Sturgeon have consistently argued that devolution doesn't give the Scottish Government "job creating powers", it's surprising that he didn't add that this shows how well Westminster is succeeding in supporting employment growth in Scotland.

Studio guest Kevin Schofield then asks "why if leaving the EU is such a bad thing for Scotland, how come leaving the UK isn't?". Salmond's answer betrays the cognitive dissonance at the heart the SNP's current position:  "I don't accept Scotland becoming independent means needing to put trade barriers between Scotland and England [...] England is Scotland's first export market."

There's a mind-boggling obvious contradiction here: if Scotland needs to leave a post-Brexit UK and join the EU to defend its EU trade, it's because there's a belief that EU/UK trade barriers will exist. To then dismiss the inevitable corollary (that Scotland in the EU would then face trade barriers with England) is just plain daft.

The other studio guest Kate McCann then asks a question about the problem Scotland would face because of its £15bn deficit.

Salmond's tone switches at this point [24:00] and he moves into full-on mansplaining condescension mode: "it's what called the GERS figures, Kate [...] it was a bit longer ago than that, but nonetheless, never mind [...]  I've been looking at this set of figures for 30 years [...] let me give you a quick example which is pretty easy to understand".

He carries on to say: "GERS has us attributed a share of certain central UK expenditures, for example it would have us paying for a share of Trident, of HS2, of Nuclear power stations on the South coast and of renovating the House of Commons and a bill of £6bn ... if you total all that up and divide it by Scotland's share then that'll save you 30 to 35 billion for a start"

You don't need to be an economic mastermind to spot that this number isn't a figure that can honestly be presented in response to a question about Scotland's annual deficit, not least when you observe that our total managed expenditure (devolved and reserved) is just £68.6bn.

So let's unpick those figures.

Full Fact suggests the annual operating costs of Trident are expected to be around £2bn a year. Scotland's population share (as attributed in GERS) of that annual cost would be about £150m a year. This is broadly consistent with Salmond's assertion in 2012 that "Trident is costing Scottish tax payers £163m a year". So the cost figure in that 2015-16 £15bn deficit is less than £0.2bn

The capital cost of replacing Trident is estimated at £30 - 40bn by the MoD. The "overall cost" (included in-service operating costs) is estimated at £167bn by Reuters (according to this Guardian article) and £205bn according to the CND (a figure which includes running costs to 2060). So if we take the largest available figure of £205bn, Scotland's 8.2% population share of that would be £17bn. That's spread over 45 years, so works out at £370m a year.

The SNP's own notoriously optimistic Independence White Paper (page 59) suggested "making different choices from Westminster on nuclear weapons and defence will allow this Scottish Government to save £500 million [a year]" - a figure which assumes more than simply stopping paying for our share of Trident.

So on Trident we can safely say the figure Scotland was allocated in 2015-16 was less than £0.2bn; even looking forwards under the most pessimistic assumptions the figure is less than £0.4bn a year.

HS2 is the single exception in GERS to the general rule that transport spending is allocated on an "in" basis (i.e that we are attributed only spend made in Scotland). As was explained in the GERS methodology for 2013-14 (page 3), Scotland is assigned 2% of total expenditure on HS2, in line with the breakdown of regional economic benefits per the Department of Transport's economic analysis. Total UK expenditure on HS2 in 2015-16 was £360m7, so our 2 % share will have only been about £7m.

His assertion about attributing cost of "Nuclear power stations on the South Coast" is, I must confess, a bit of a mystery to me. I'm aware that in the UK CRA (Country and Regional Analysis), nuclear decommissioning is classified to the region where nuclear facilities are located, but in GERS (per the latest method statement) "nuclear decommissioning and associated expenditure is apportioned on a population basis" which leads to reduction in Scotland's allocated "nuclear-related" spending of £179m (a benefit of pooling and sharing I guess).

** Update on Nuclear **
An informed person who would rather remain anonymous offered me the following insight:

"I suspect he means future contributions via consumer bills to fund the contract for difference for Hinkley. This would only not be paid by Scottish bill payers if we had a separate power system (& in the white paper the SNP asserted a single energy market would inevitably continue between scotland and rest of GB (NI has separate arrangements and is integrated into RoI energy system). They did this because the cost of support for low carbon generation (renewables and new nuclear) is pooled across GB, and generation in Scotland receives around 1/3 of all support on less than 1/10 of billpayers. That gap is likely to grow in future as although new nuclear will be in England and Wales, offshore wind is 50% more expensive again and some of that will be in Scottish waters.

So it is complete bollocks as per most of what he says to suggest because they take a simplistic posturing position to be against Hinkley somehow Scotland would then not pay for support for low carbon power in the future. Either will be part of the single energy system, in which case will contribute as now so no saving (as there is no saving to E&W consumers paying for wind power in Scotland) or if had a separate system then the disparity between number of billpayers and subsidy levels in Scotland then costs to consumers would increase.

And that's before the fact that for part of 1 day in 4 when power is scarce (not enough wind) power flows from England to Scotland to keep system functioning. If we had separate energy system then that would be at a premium price, whereas any extra wind comes when there is an excess of supply and so no real revenue benefit to Scotland in supplying that to England."

** Update Ends **

Finally let's look at that £6bn bill for renovating the House of Commons. I've not dug too deep on this, but from press reports it seems that's a total figure relating to a 32 year period. So an annual bill of £189m, of which Scotland's population share would be £15m pa (and of course was zero in the 2015-16 deficit figure being discussed).

So let's sum all of that up on a worst-case scenario basis
  • £205bn for Trident over 45 years = £4.6bn pa x 8.2% = £0.38bn pa to Scotland
  • £56bn for HS2 over 16 years = £3.5bn pa x 2.0% = £0.07bn pa to Scotland
  • £6bn for House of Commons over 32 years = £0.2bn pa x 8.2% = £0.02bn pa to Scotland
I know Salmond doesn't think that people who listen to his rhetoric are capable of basic maths, but in the context of the £15bn annual deficit he was asked about, the items he listed don't even add up to £0.5bn.

In conclusion: when quoting a figure of "£30 to 35 billion" savings, Salmond is not "putting a gloss" on the figures, he's taking the proverbial.


1. The analysis suggests that if we remain in the EEA (the Norway model, where a customs border exists but no trade tariffs) the effect would be "only" a 10% reduction in trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), whereas a negotiated bilateral agreement would lead to a 15-20% decline.

HM Treasury analysis: the long-term economic impact of EU membership and the alternatives (April 2016)

page 168
page 175

2. Scotland analysis:Fiscal policy and sustainability (May 2014)

page 5

3.  Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product, Quarter 2 2016
page 3

5.  Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product, Quarter 2 2016

It's worth noting (per the methodology guide) that "in practical terms" the figures don't include oil & gas extraction
6. GERS 2015-16

page 17


Fraser Whyte said...

I'd also point out that in attempting to rebut a *current* deficit of £15bn, he contends that *future* costs will not be apportioned to Scotland. We currently pay nothing for nuclear stations that aren't built yet nor Houses of Parliament repairs that aren't carried out yet.

What relevance potential future costs, amalgamated into one large figure rather than stated annually, have on the current deficit is not clear.

As you say, he's talking crap. He's simply trying to throw a Very Big Number into the mix next to another Very Big Number in the hope that no-one will know any better. Which, it seems during this interview, they didn't.

ignatiusorlly said...

Another excellent demolition of the chuckling, blustering liar that is Alec Salmond. For the record Hinkley Point C is actually on the north coast of Devon so he can add 'lack of geographical awareness' to his roll of shame.

Gogs said...

Excellent article as always.
Whilst the focus has been on potential small savings. What about additional costs.
Such as -
Membership of EU
Decommunising of oil rigs

Gogs said...

Excellent as always.
Whilst we are focusing on savings.
What about additional costs such as :-
EU membership costs
Decommissioning of oil rigs etc etc

Kevin Hague said...

The following was offered to me as an anonymous comment by somebody who clearly knows their stuff:
Just read your blog on Salmond's bluster from today. On nuclear, I suspect he means future contributions via consumer bills to fund the contract for difference for Hinkley. This would only not be paid by Scottish bill payers if we had a separate power system (& in the white paper the SNP asserted a single energy market would inevitably continue between scotland and rest of GB (NI has separate arrangements and is integrated into RoI energy system). They did this because the cost of support for low carbon generation (renewables and new nuclear) is pooled across GB, and generation in scotland receives around 1/3 of all support on less than 1/10 of billpayers. That gap is likely to grow in future as although new nuclear will be in England and Wales, offshore wind is 50% more expensive again and some of that will be in Scottish waters. So it is complete bollocks as per most of what he says to suggest because they take a simplistic posturing position to be against Hinkley somehow scotland would then not pay for support for low carbon power in the future. Either will be part of the single energy system, in which case will contribute as now so no saving (as there is no saving to E&W consumers paying for wind power in scotland) or if had a separate system then the disparity between number of billpayers and subsidy levels in scotland then costs to consumers would increase. And that's before the fact that for part of 1 day in 4 when power is scarce (not enough wind) power flows from eng to Scot to keep system functioning. If we had separate energy system then that would be at a premium price, whereas any extra wind comes when there is an excess of supply and so no real revenue benefit to scotland in supplying that to England.

David Francis said...

The first three polls, post Brexit, showed majority support for independence.
One of them was by Scotpulse - not a British Polling Council member, so was discounted by some.
The other two were by established BPC members.

Drew said...

While Salmond seems clearly all over the shop on this, we shouldn't gloss over the general point that the current fiscal position of the UK isn't currently serving Scotland or the wider UK well.

A deficit for Scotland of £15 billion for Scotland and another year of deficit for the UK of £69 billion means fiscal governance in the UK is pretty poor and has been for a number of years.

The last surplus was achieved under the Blair Government in 2003 and the current targets to return to a surplus in 2019-2020 have been dropped by the UK Government. That means more borrowing and more of our tax revenues go towards serving debt repayment instead of public services.

That doesn't mean that independence is the answer, clearly at present that is unaffordable.

Scotland's economy and public accounts is suffering every year due to the following:

Alcohol abuse £3 billion
Drug addiction £3.5 billion
Repeat offending £3 billion
Crime £0.7 billion
Obesity £0.6 billion
Smoking £1.1 billion

While there will be some overlap and double counting in those figures, losing roughly £10 billion a year from lost tax revenue, productivity and cost on our public services is clearly unsustainable.

I'd like to see the Scottish Government bring in a sugar tax to address obesity.

People serving non violent criminal sentences of 12 months should be given non custodial sentences and a much bigger proportion of the justice budget should go to community sentencing instead of jail people for possessing drugs or failing to pay fines.

The Scottish Government should work with the UK Government to have tax raising powers over alcohol and smoking devolved and move the misuse of drugs act to a Scottish Government responsibility.

By making addiction a health matter and not criminalise people that are addicted to drugs, we should stand a better chance of getting on top of some of these problems.

I'd like to see cannibis legalised and sold to over 18s under license so the strength can be controlled and the revenue raised can be put towards drug treatment services.

GPs and other licensed safe injecting centres should have the power to prescribe Class A drugs to addicts to reduce the criminality and trade on the black market, while in the same premises support and advice about drug treatment can be offered to them.

These safer injecting centres already operate in many countries around the world.

Leaving the EU is going to cause Scotland huge problems because we have an ageing population and we need immigration to keep our population at a steady level. I fear with the UK's policy of reducing immigration and if hard Brexit means not being part of free movement of people, our population and with it our economy is going to go into freefall.

We therefore need to have immigration policy devolved to Scotland so we can have an open door policy and keep our population growth at an acceptable level.

Edward Witney said...

To Drew

No matter what happens Sturgeon is in a bind and she knows it. She was hoping for a remain vote and then to push for another referendum in the hope that she would win and try and negotiate early entry into the EU. Brexit blew that out of the water.

As part of the UK Scotland is leaving the EU. Should there be a hard Brexit it will put her in an even more dangerous position. She can try and go for a new referendum and if she gets it and loses she's finished. The SNP will be all dressed up with no where to go. If May blocks a new referendum we will have a constitutional crisis. If she pushed ahead anyway we will boycott. She's also finished this way as well.

The third alternative is that she gets a new referendum and wins it. She then has to explain to the Scottish people that we would have to borrow around an extra £9 billion a year more than we would have if we'd remained in the UK. The Spanish, Belgians and French would also probably veto an early EU entry. That would leave her out of the UK, the EU, and out of both the EU single market and the UK single market.

If that's not bad enough we would almost certainly need a hard border with England. Sturgeon has stated that Scotland needs more immigrants. Many of these immigrants would likely come here and try to get into England ergo a hard border.

Sturgeon has set herself up to fail with her absurd demands. No matter what she does she's on a losing streak. When the SNP voters finally wake up and realise she's led them down a blind alley whilst promising a Utopia they'll be a backlash. Most SNP voters still believe we subsidise England. This won't last. The cracks are already appearing in the SNP. Just like Labour, they'll destroy themselves with their own contradictions.

Sturgeon's finished. The only choice she has is to choose which way she fails.

Drew said...

To Edward

I would agree with much of what you say although I think you are slightly confused about the position of an independent Scotland and Europe. We wouldn't have to apply for EU membership to be part of the EU single market area, we could be part of the European Economic Area if we join EFTA, which only has 4 members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The European Economic Area (EEA) allows the EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, Switzerland opted out of EEA to have it's own trade deal with the EU) governed by the same basic rules of free movement of people, goods, services and capital. We wouldn't need to rely getting the Spanish, French or Belgians to agree.

But aside from that, it doesn't alter the fact we need to be able to take more radical positions now on every day politics. And to do that we need more radical devolution.

Relying on Income tax alone is a very narrow and limited tool to tackle the big problems we face. A 1p rise in Income Tax would bring in an extra £500 million in revenue. We would need to raise income tax by 10-15p to make any kind of dent in our current deficit of £15 billion.

That's why I think the SNP should ditch their strategy of independence in at least the short to medium term and go for as much devolution as they can.

If Labour and the Lib Dems were much stronger on deolution than they currently are I think they could possibly recover lost support and capitalise on the SNP's downfall.

Now that the Conservatives have allowed the ultra right Trump style politics to take positions of power in the UK Government, we have to try and get an administration in Scotland that is willing to distance themselves from these types of damaging right wing politics.

Thanks to the EU and free movement of people Scotland's population has stablised and even increased in the last few decades thanks to Labour's open door policy of immigration.

If we go back to limited immigration, our economy is going to stagnate in the future and our tax revenues will plummet, along with our ability to treat ever more complex health problems.

Relying on the Barnet forumla to maintain spending on our public services isn't a sensible long term strategy either.

The funding placements are only in place until 2020 and I just don't believe a UK Government moving further and further to the right will allow Scotland to have a more generous funding settlement, especially when the real damage to the UK economy from Brexit begins to bite.

Unknown said...

Scotland needs wealth creating businesses creating jobs. The falling population is because there is nothing for people to do so they have to emigrate. Replacing them with immigrants achieves nothing.

Drew said...

To unknown

Historically, Scotland was a country of net out-migration, with more people leaving to live elsewhere than moving to live in Scotland.

However, since the 1990s we have experienced mostly net gains in migration terms.

I don't think the number of people coming here we do so if there wasn't work to attract them here.

And as the the unemployment rate in Scotland is only 1% higher than the UK rate of 5%, I don't think that's much of an indicator.

Edward Witney said...

You know more than I do on the trading issues and I agree that the SNP should park the Indy issue. A big big problem arises though in that most people who vote SNP really do believe that we fund the rUK in one way or another. This is palpably false and this view is encouraged by the SNP. We will likely receive about £40-60 billion off the UK over the next 10 years in fiscal transfers before the economy stabilises. The SNP and the Labour Party has created this mess by demonising the Tories and making out that we are somehow more special and virtuous than they are. It's total nonsense and has led us to where we are now.

Since 1979 the Scottish left (SNP and Labour) has demonised the Tories to such a degree that it elicites an irrational hatred of them. You are right on one issue though in that the Tories under May won't pander to us the way Cameron, Brown and Blair did. We don't have the vast oil revenues we used to have and are now a serious drain on the exchequer and will be for years. We are responsible for the position we are now in and no one else. One thing most should remember is that most high rate taxpayers are likely to vote Tory, even here. If they go so do their taxes and our vital services.

Ted Ditchburn said...

Just a couple of general points in and around the blog/article (excellent) & comments (excellent).

The larger share we have of unstorable wind generation capacity, the larger amount of dead capital lying around in the form of Ready-to-switch-on "other capacity'is needed for when that wind doesn't't blow.

At the extreme, 100% of wind generation would need an entire shadow generating capacity.... Just grinning and bearing a powerless week over Christmas with a few thousand frozen to death isn't an option.

I have lost count of the number of times poorly briefed journalists give far too much leeway to the SNP and the way they use the casual insertion of makey-uppey numbers in interviews.

The production teams could easily be more switched on, there are a relatively small number of key topics where the SNP approach is always predictable...yet the *big lie* gets through unscathed again and again.

Taking multi-year, even multi-decade numbers and producing a total number, which even IF supportable as a *whole life of system* number is not when presented as * an annual charge*.

Finally the broad brush presentationalism used by the SNP instead of the detailed, worked through, cautious and realistic presentation of issues is another disgrace.

People watching the pronouncements of the SNP in the energy field must be getting baffled.

By now huge and secret oil fields off to the West ought by rights to have been unveiled along with what? Another century? Three centuries?? Of boundless prosperity for all.

Along with the massive wave power infrastructure being built and the carefree renegotion of bountiful wind energy supply with a shriven rUK,meaning mainly England.

Instead...damn it!...the one renewable making strides to true breakthrough status is Southern Europe where the sun shines.

The wind bonanza also turns out to depend on the balancing payments rUK when the wind blows too much as well as when it blows too little.

While the volatility and thus fragility of the oil industry means the bonanza fields are possibly too costly to ever see full development.

With overall the looming price suppressant on increased prices for North Sea production represented by fracking for gas and oil in the USA but elsewhere as well.

No doubt to avoid having to answer any of the above points the keen SNP fan would bleat the SNPBAAAD label.

But what connects the above 3 random points is that the SNPBAAAD type of debate avoidance is understandable and probably unchallengable in the at-any-cost type of committed supporter. However it is not in the segment of support that has made that movement toward the SNP in recent years.

The failure of the media to hold the spokespeople like Alex Salmond to account really counts when people in that least committed quartile of SNP support see interviews like that one.

They're the people who don't blog, don't go on Twitter and the like, but are open to reasonable argument. These are the people being let down the most by lazy, underprepared production teams and journalists.

It may be however (hopefully) be that the message is getting through to the *thoughtful 45* of the overall 45 despite all...hence the continuing lack of enthusiasm for a second Indy ref and indeed for independence in the polls.

At the end of the day while the positive message for the Union needs to be stated to combat the visioneering of the SNP ...and that is vital.. The place they are really weak is on the facts and the turn-down in support may well be coming from reasonable folk being won over one fact at a time.

Keep up the good work!

Dave R said...

But aside from that, it doesn't alter the fact we need to be able to take more radical positions now on every day politics. And to do that we need more radical devolution.

Drew, Actually there are plenty of areas in which the Scottish Government is in control of policy where they could take 'radical positions' but they don't. I think before yet more powers are devolved I'd like to see conclusive evidence that your suggested approach works and consitently delivers a better outcome. If running a country was so easy then most countrys would be run well. The fact is that it's bloody difficult to run a country in a way that works well for almost everyone, in fact it's almost impossible, something that few people really accept and that politicians continually try and con us is not. The SNP are pretty much terrified of doing anything radical at all lest it blow up in their face and ruin their dream of independence, if there are exceptions then they are generally led by populism rather than data e.g. the airgun legislation (which given the deadline for applications is looming could still come back to bite them).
I don't believe further "radical devolution" (whatever that is) will acheive anything much other than turn the ratchet several more notches toward independence. If being radical is such a winner then let's see the SNP truly try being radical across their current responsibilities and proving it is the best path to follow.

Not only should they ditch independence, they should ditch calls for more devolution until such times they give us unequivocal examples that they are more competent and excercising powers than anyone else, their current record suggests that they are at least as bad as anyone else at getting it right.

Likening or trying to associate the current Tories to Donald Trump is so absurd it really does undermine the rest of what you've written.

David GREEN said...

Salmond does indeed have a brass neck, as you painstakingly show. I think he must be channeling William Paterson and the others who persuaded a gullible Scottish population to invest in the Darien scheme of the 1690's. Numerous similarities exist between the Darien scheme and the SNP plan for Scottish independence. Endless lies and ludicrous claims of wealth to come were made for the Darien scheme, which destroyed something like 25-50% of the wealth of Scotland and forced it to plead terms for Union with the English. If Salmond had his way, he would destroy a chunk, perhaps 10-20% of Scottish wealth, by achieving independence using his own farrago of lies and half-truths.

As for Sturgeon, one of her finer debating points in a week that was full of them was "They certainly didn't vote to throw economic rationality out of the widow" à propos "hard" Brexit. As many have pointed out, Sturgeon, egged on by Salmond, is bizarrely irrational economically when it comes to Scottish independence. Yet another of the numerous parallels between half-baked Brexiters and half-baked Seps.

Drew said...

Ah ha, bravo David!

No rational debate about Scotland's political and economic status in 2016 would be complete without a reference to 1693, because the world economy and political situation of the time is almost exactly the same, except the wifi signal wasn't quite as good back then.

Such is the sheer brilliance of Darien for ridiculous rewriting of history, that it now ranks for Unionists in the same way deluded Nationalists are convinced Culloden was a Scotland versus England battle.

Who knows how the referendum in 2014 would have turned out if only the plague, pirates and the Spanish army hadn't gotten in the way?

You seem to have left out some of the minor details about the Darien scheme, such as the fact that the original directors of the Company of Scotland were Scottish and English in equal numbers, with the risk investment capital being shared between English, Dutch and Scots.

The English and Dutch investors only pulled out at the last minute due to pressure from the East India Company, afraid of losing their trade monopoly, as opposed to any misgivings about the potential financial success of the scheme.

You have also air brushed from history the fact William Paterson was a successful banker that co-founded the Bank of England.

David GREEN said...

Like any angler, I am always delighted to get a bite. Drew is largely correct as far as he goes. But air-brushing is a two-way street. A namesake of mine, but probably no relation, called Thomas Green, was lynched by the Edinburgh mob as a consequence of the failure of the Darien scheme, despite being innocent of the fabricated grievance that led to his death.

Darien may be in the past, but to my mind, it indicates that the Scots are not miraculously free of folly. My point was and is that, not only was Darien an egregious example of Scottish stupidity, but that the current obsession with Scottish independence, in the face of clear but unadmitted economic disbenefits of considerable magnitude shows that the spirit of Darien lives on, and is no different in thrust from English stupidity in the form of Brexit. It is driven in both cases by mediocrities who have little understanding of history or economics, but who have managed to foment and then tap a mine of grievance. Quebec is another good example of the phenomenon at work.

Drew had some interesting philosophical points in a previous blog around the optimum size of the state. Arguments about whether an independent Scotland was an optimum currency area, for example, would be well worth hearing. Swinney's recent foray in which he appears to want a continuation of Scottish use of sterling suggests that he, for one, doesn't believe so. I should like to hear Stiglitz's views on the subject and whether, for example,he thinks it would be a good idea for Texas to break away from the Union and establish an independent Texan currency. My own view is that it would not. Texas is better off using the USD as its currency. Same for Scotland and spelling, but it doesn't really sit well with taking back control.

What we have in the nationalist case, both Scottish and UK, is a determination to grab a political entity where certain views can enjoy the tyranny of the majority. In both cases, the electoral numbers are approximately matched between pro and anti, as they were in Quebec. In both cases, there is a middle group of economic rationalists. Since Brexit and Scottish independence are economically irrational, as Sturgeon can see about one but not the other, the economic rationalists sit aside the political divide. It is this group that Sturgeon and Salmond have to co-opt if they are to win. That is why this blog, and others like it, are so important in preventing economic impoverishment being inflicted by lies and ignorance.

Drew said...

But I still don't see the relevance with Darien and Scottish nationalism.

Darien was an attempt by Scottish nobility to grab a slice of the imperialist riches that the Spanish, Dutch, English among others had already begun to enjoy.

It was about Empire building and creating global colonies and trading routes around the world, which is almost the absolute opposite of what Scottish nationalism is about.

The Union was inevitable nearly 100 years prior to Darien when King James decided he wanted to be King, not only of Britain and Ireland in 1603, but an imperial master of Europe. Hence why under his rule he sanctioned the Scottish and English colonisation of Ireland through the Ulster plantation and also the colonies in the Americas began.

You need to be careful of holding William Paterson up as an example of Scottish stupidity because he was on your side, as a pragmatic Unionist. After Darien failed the Scottish nobility were only too happy to jump on the bandwagon and steal some of the wealth created out of the British Empire for themselves. Many Glasgow city centre street names are a tribute to the slavery and pillage that went on, under the guise of 'tobacco trading', during the Empire.

If Darien and the subsequent Act of Union have any relevance today, it is that Scotland played a part in slavery, exploitation and treating native populations appallingly through greed. The only reason why we are not more recognised as such for it, is that we couldn't do it on our own.

Ian McKellar said...

Of course, once Income Tax rises by 15% or VAT increases to 25%, Higher rate Taxpayers in particular will put the house for sale, pack all the family belongings in a Pickfords' Van and move South