Paul Mason’s “The SNP will fail until it proves the financial case for independence” (TNE #330) claims that a newly independent Scotland would have an unsustainable fiscal deficit. The fact is that the Scottish government provides pretty well all of the services the people of Scotland depend on out of a budget of just over half of all the taxes raised here. Health, education, transport and infrastructure, the justice system, the emergency services, local government, and an increasing range of social security payments.
Westminster charges us four times as much for our defence as most European countries Scotland’s size spend on theirs. They do fund a number of social security payments, principally the state pension, but even after taking these two items into account, we are still net contributors to Westminster.
The UK government’s figures are pure fiction, designed to frighten us off seeking independence. They have a long record of this sort of behaviour.
In the 1950s they confidently asserted that Malta was so reliant on subsidies from Westminster that independence was totally out of the question, as the Maltese would be unable to afford even a quarter of the food they required without the benevolence of their imperial masters. Nevertheless, Malta became independent in 1964, nobody starved, and the country is now a successful EU member state.
A remote island the size of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, with a smaller population than Edinburgh and with a modest amount of tourism as its only real economic base can thrive as an independent state. So surely a country that is a net exporter of oil, gas and electricity, which is a major producer of renewable energy, a net exporter of food, much of it of internationally renowned quality, which is the only part of the UK that consistently has a positive balance of trade – even excluding oil and gas, which is a world-class tourist destination, which has the best-educated workforce in Europe and as many of the world’s top 200 universities as France and Germany combined, can do at least as well?
Paul Mason argues that post-Sturgeon, the independence goal “seems distant”. It is undeniable that Nicola Sturgeon’s going and the agonies of the current leadership contest make times difficult for the SNP. Leadership battles dislocate political parties and in hard times the splits can be more profound and leave lasting harm.
But all is far from lost for the SNP. Labour is not markedly cutting through in Scotland. The Scottish Tories may vanish as a Westminster force and the LibDems are treading water. I am not an SNP member, but while those activists I have spoken to regret Sturgeon quitting, they all remain positive that independence is not far away.
The population of Scotland is about that of Denmark. There is absolutely no reason why Scotland cannot survive and thrive as a member state of the EU.
Is there not a lesson for the SNP from a different referendum? There’s no need for a good financial case. To win you need multiple campaigns promising (sometimes contradictory) things suiting most interests; low on detail and high on keeping voters in the dark on probable (bad) outcomes.
Was Scotland prevented from “taking back control” in 2014 simply because of the SNP’s provision of details, publishing thousands of pages of fiscal analysis before the vote? They could have left the version to be decided later (an option for a vote on joining the euro?) All they needed was a Leave or Remain vote on the UK.
Why does Scots politics preclude the promotion of confusion, ignorance and dishonesty while UK politics waved it through in 2016?
It is well nigh impossible to make a coherent financial case for Scottish independence. One has only to look at the total mismanagement of every aspect of our lives to conclude that Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP chums couldn’t run a bath!
As for Sturgeon being “the most formidable of leaders”, I must beg to differ from Mr Mason. For all her talents and qualities, she has signally failed to achieve anything worthwhile during her tenure and there has been no increase in support for independence.
Suna Erdem adding her to the list of women leaders who have suffered from/are still suffering from a hostile political environment (“Shattered”, TNE #330), is giving her more importance than is merited.
Should anyone assume from this missive that I am a Tory wingnut, then I must disabuse them. My political roots and voting intentions Remain (sic) left-wing liberal.
Far from leaving the public eye, as you suggest in “Shattered”, former prime minister Magdalena Andersson is still the leader of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party and leader of the opposition in the Riksdag. A recent survey showed her to be Sweden’s most popular politician.
Hats (and ties) off to Alastair Campbell (Diary, TNE #330) for joining the (non-exclusive) 93% Club, and endorsing so strongly the aims of tackling inequality and social immobility. There is an obvious and urgent need to deal with the obscene inequalities in housing, education, health and incomes that scar our society – ie to level up, but not in the half-hearted and misguided way proposed by Rishi Sunak & Co. As the Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis has put it, all babies are born naked, but soon after some are dressed in expensive clothes bought at the best boutiques while the majority wear rags.
Are we likely to see Rishi and his colleagues joining Alastair as members of his new club? I think not.
I rather suspect that, instead of seeking guidance from Sophie Pender, the club’s founder, or Prof Varoufakis, they will as usual follow the wisdom of that great moral leader from Dickens, Seth Pecksniff: “If everyone were warm and well-fed, we should lose the satisfaction of admiring the fortitude with which certain conditions of men bear cold and hunger. And if we were no better than anybody else, what would become of our sense of gratitude – which is one of the holiest feelings of our common nature.”
Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
Back off, Boris
If Boris Johnson really is hell-bent on wrecking the chances of an EU-UK deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol by courting ERG/DUP votes, perhaps he should forget about standing in Uxbridge again as Mandrake suggests (TNE # 330) and consider standing in one of the Ulster Unionists’ parliamentary seats.
After all, “playing the Orange card” is the well-trodden path of dissident Tories throughout history when wanting to take revenge on their party leaders, notably Lord Randolph Churchill in 1886, Sir Henry Wilson in 1922 and Enoch Powell in 1974. Powell stood in County Down on a viscerally anti-European platform that helped to deny Edward Heath another term at No 10.
Could Johnson do the same to Rishi Sunak? Would the loyalist community really welcome the man who claimed to have delivered them an “oven-ready deal”, who promised them a frictionless border across the Irish Sea and who told Northern Ireland’s business community to simply tear up any inconvenient EU paperwork?
Unlikely. In a province that voted decisively to remain in the EU, where a majority remain positive about the economic benefits the protocol has brought and where any reconvened Stormont Executive is likely to be headed by Sinn Féin, it may not be the ideal place to test out his support and plot a leadership comeback. A better bet might be for Johnson to put on his stripes and boater and paddle back upstream to genteel, Pimm’s-drenched Henley.
The publication of Boris Johnson’s memoirs will cause a massive problem for booksellers and librarians. Should they be classified as fiction or non-fiction?
Not quite Italy
Jonty Bloom asks, “Are we the new Italy?” (TNE #330). No, we are not. We will never be able to have a decent caffè or cappuccino, a caffè corretto or affordable prosciutto di Parma!
We have all the economic incompetence of an economy in crisis, without the sunshine, wine and pasta!
Kevin Patman’s letter on rejoining (“Happy returns”, Letters, TNE 330) misses the point. Neither the Labour Party nor the Liberal Democrats are yet ready to make a commitment to rejoining the European Union.
However, if, after the coming general election, the European Union were to invite a Labour or Liberal Democrat government in the UK to rejoin, both parties would probably commit to doing so.
The supreme court judged that the 2016 referendum was advisory and not mandatory. However, David Davis erroneously asserted in the House of Commons that the decision had been made. There is therefore a strong case for this to be debated in parliament and a decision made to rejoin.
I agree with Nigel Warburton (Everyday Philosophy, TNE #330) that Arthur Schopenhauer deserves our attention, but not only as a good European, also as a good universalist. In his classification of the arts, he places music at the top, because its “language” transcends all boundaries. Europeans appreciate Indian music, growing numbers of Korean musicians perform western music.
As regards Schopenhauer’s influence on the great, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s name should be added.
Lack of clarity afflicts the writings not only of Heidegger, but also Spinoza and Sartre. While shocked by Heidegger’s nazism and regretting his convoluted language, we must acknowledge him as being the only philosopher, apart from Plato, who analysed the meaning and status of poetry and who shows much more interest in the Pre-Socratics then any other philosopher.
Thanks to Nigel Warburton for his thoughtful article on the perennial dilemma of squaring a good and all-powerful God with the horrors of natural disasters like the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria (“Everyday Philosophy”, TNE #329).
I agree with him that Theism is ultimately helpless to square that circle – and yes, he’s right to say that it’s a cop-out to say that “God moves in mysterious ways”. But going for what he calls “the simplest explanation… that there is no God” suggests to me that Nigel is tilting at the wrong windmill.
Theism believes in a benevolent and all-powerful God who intervenes in the world that God has created. The Christian faith I’ve journeyed with for over 80 years, much of that time as a church minister, points me, in the figure of Jesus, to a different God, a God who travels with us even in our suffering, up to and through death, a God who is love, in the toughest sense of that word.
In relation to natural disasters, the challenge to us is surely to avoid the easy way out, of blaming God or saying that God doesn’t exist, but rather to devote all our skills and resources to living together in peace, and in harmony with this natural world, of which we are not the owners, but rather the custodians.
Rev Dr John Harvey
The best argument against religion is not earthquakes but religion itself.
In 300,000 years of time and over the surface of the planet there must have been millions of religions. They all disagree with each other as to how many gods there are, what their gender is and what they want us to do. Even within any given religion there are profound (often violent) disagreements. 99.9% have conclusively disproved themselves by disappearing.
All the believers in any given religion x illogically believe that their religion is true and all other religions are false. All the believers in the other religions think x is false. Atheists simply exclude the unlikely possibility that they have accidentally been born into the only true version of the only true religion that has ever existed, anywhere, at any time.
Religions disprove themselves and each other!
What a flop!
Thérèse Coffey’s invocation for people to eat turnips puts her in a similar category to Marie Antoinette, though it is doubtful the latter ever said “Let them eat cake”. The French for turnip is “navet”, which also means a complete flop or failure. More turnip on your salad, madam? ’Nuff said.
My local newspaper recently had a crossword clue: “Former UK prime minister (3,5)”. Very satisfying.
Ilford, Greater London