On Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took to the stage once again for the third instalment of a series of books setting out what a separated Scotland would look like post Indyref2. The subject of this one was the economy.
In advance, we had been told that unlike the first two books, this one contained solid data backing up the arguments being made by Scottish Nationalists. We were to be told plans for currency, pensions, and the England/Scotland border. What we were told fell short of even the lowest expectations.
In a speech high on jargon and buzzwords and promises of a greener, a fairer, a stronger Scotland, of actual data and hard facts we saw none. However, we did hear the vague plans on currency and on the borders.
On the currency, we were told that the plan was to retain the Pound Sterling for a period (no length specified) before moving to a new “Scottish Pound”, backed by a Scottish Central Bank.
This is the entirety of the detail offered, and it asks more questions than it answers. Firstly, how would the Scottish Central Bank acquire the financial heft to back a new currency? It’s not as simple as printing new banknotes and sending them out, a new currency must have a huge amount of reserve capital. No acknowledgement of this was made by the First Minister.
Secondly, the spectre of a hard border with England was raised. Gratefully, the First Minister confirmed what we knew had to be the case, that a Scotland in the EU would require a “hard border” with England, that’s a border which has checks on trade and potentially more.
In terms of detail on this policy, we were offered the idea that checks would only be performed on the two main roads, the M6 and A1. No mention of other roads, which would assumedly become smugglers’ paradise. We were also told that improvements in technology would make checks redundant. Very similar to what we were told about the Northern Irish border during Brexit, and we know how that went.
A hard border with England would be ruinous for Scotland. 60% of all Scotland’s exports are with the rest of the UK. More will be exported through English ports. Setting up a hard border imperils this trade. The Scotland/England border is far more financially significant than the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border and therefore more difficult to manage if a hard border.
Lastly, the First Minister offered comment on pensions. Thankfully, she put to bed a theory shamefully propagated by SNP Ministers that the UK would pay for an Independent Scotland’s pensions. This is not the case. The First Minister confirmed that Scotland would need to find the money.
There was no other detail offered.
The most concerning thing about the whole document was a dearth of any detail whatsoever, no numbers, no spreadsheets, nothing. Instead the First Minister offered a vague promise to avoid austerity. This is not something she can promise. The fact is as things stand Scotland is running a budget deficit of well over 10%. This would likely widen if we left the UK. To close this deficit, it would be tax rises and spending cuts.
Even Scottish Nationalists have spoken out.
Robin McAlpine, of the Nationalist Common Weal think tank, said:
“You can pick your reason for getting off this mad, mad bus. It could be because you think a government should have some form of lender of last resort to save it in a crisis. It could be because you’re not keen on austerity. It could even be that you’re not keen on not being told how much austerity is proposed.
It might be because you realise they have no economic plan for Scotland. It could be because you believe climate change is real and that we need to invest more than one per cent of GDP in it over the next decade. It might be because they’ve failed to come up with any answers for trade or borders.”
(read his full comments here: https://robinmcalpine.org/this-paper-answers-nothing-this-government-has-no-answers/)
Former SNP MSP Alex Neil said that the proposal had to be looked at again, and Nationalist Economist Richard Murphy said: “quite literally no country can do what this plan published by Sturgeon this morning suggests. Using sterling would economically ruin an independent Scotland”
Convenor of the Scottish Currency Group Tim Rideout described parts of the plan as “Economically illiterate”.
The SNP genuinely want us to hold a referendum next year to rip the UK apart. The least they could do is provide a case. Apart from vague promises and fluffy ideas of a greener, cleaner, fairer, etc Scotland, we have nothing. This is what the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon have been doing instead of working on the NHS crisis including record A&E wait times, putting Indyref over police numbers, putting separation ahead of education.
The result is a weaker Scotland. I will always hold the Scottish Government to account for these failures.