Wednesday 12 September 2012

Better Together: the literature examined

After the hustle and bustle of Glasgow University Freshers Fair, I decided to take a look at the literature of the Better Together campaign. I will leave aside for a minute the irony of an "all party non-party campaign" having its literature disseminated through local Labour Clubs. I wanted to take a look at the substantive claims behind their leafleting campaign and to see what the "positive case" for the continuation of the Union between Scotland and the rest of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Their campaign leaflets pursue this idea that a strong Scotland inside the UK can have "the best of both worlds", offering the benefits of localised government without the risks of independence. Security in numbers, if you will. Their opening gambit is that Scotland could survive as an independent state (or as they call it "separate country"), but that being part of the UK "is the best possible choice for our future". This is a welcome statement and considerable progress on what many have said in the past.

And so to the substance. The leaflets provide 10 arguments in favour of the Union. I'll list them in turn:

"Scots are represented by over 270 embassies as part of the UK, the world's largest diplomatic network (Source Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

Yes. This is true. The UK has a lot of embassies in other countries. But I'm left wondering "so what"? Are they suggesting that Scotland could not maintain an effective embassy presence across the globe? Given our countries are so close and have a long-standing history of relative peace among each other, surely an independent Scotland could share or pool embassy support with the UK (and for that matter, other friendly EU countries) in instances where it would make no economic sense to set-up our own without fear of diplomatic spats undermining the protection and support these buildings offer to travelling citizens?

Besides, on independence it is completely feasible to ensure, as part of the settlement, that all Scots born persons/residents with UK citizenship can retain the citizenship of the old state, either automatically or by election. Their children could thus also acquire that citizenship and would also be protected. For, at a minimum, two generations of people, the entire populus of "Scots" could continue to enjoy all the diplomatic benefits of UK citizenship they currently enjoy. There is precedent for this with the terms of settlement in Ireland, and indeed those born in Northern Ireland continue to be eligible for citizenship of the Republic or the UK (some have dual citizenship). It is therefore hugely questionable that an independent Scotland means Scots will lose the protection offered by the UK diplomatic service (at least not in the medium-term). In the next 40 years or so, there is nothing to stop the Scots expanding their diplomatic presence across the globe; indeed being freed from the confines of UK foreign policy it may be the case that we can set up embassies in countries with more hostile attitudes to the UK in the Middle East and elsewhere, should we choose to do that.

"Scotland exports twice as much to England, Wales and Northern Ireland as to the rest of the world (Source Scottish Government)"

Yes. We do export a lot more to the rest of the UK than elsewhere. I'm glad that we have established that "trade is good". Why is this a point for the Union? Will people south of the border and across the Irish sea stop buying whisky from us if we become an independent country? Free trade is something that is enjoyed throughout the European Economic Area, all those signatory to the European Free Trade Agreement, and all those who are members of the European Union. Scotland can and will continue to trade a lot of stuff with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, if it becomes independent.

The only circumstances in which this is a legitimate point is if either Scotland or the Rest of the UK decides to withdraw completely from the EU, EEA and EFTA. Now I know there's more Euroscepticism down south than in Scotland, but at the very least, surely we can agree that total withdrawal from the single market is not a likely prospect for either prospective state. It is at least amusing to see Tories in the better together campaign articulate so effectively the benefits of free trade with our neighbours, something they so often overlook when talking about the European Union and related bodies. In any case, surely it is in Scotland's interests to diversify its export markets? It must be far healthier in the long run, surely, to sell more to developing economies like China, India, Brazil and Singapore than simply to constrain ourselves to modest exportation on the same set of islands. There is a massive untapped market out there crying out for stuff that we can and are making in Scotland. Irrespective of independence or otherwise, let's go get it.

"One in five workers in Scotland are employed by English, Welsh and Northern Irish firms. (Source HM Treasury)"

Good. Free movement of capital and workers is a great thing. Why is this an argument for the Union? English companies can operate in Scotland now, and they will still be able to on independence. Vice versa is also true. The laws governing companies and their operations is already distinct north and south of the border, with different rules applying. There is no clamour to alter radically company law in Scotland or the RUK, and English companies would face little, if any, problems continuing to operate and trade in Scotland, hiring Scottish people.

"31,000 workers in Scotland have jobs with the UK Government. (Source HMG Departmental Employment Statistics)"

Government work doesn't get abolished just because Scotland becomes an independent country. Those jobs are probably based in Scotland because they relate to administrative work relevant to Scotland (most likely operating out of the Scotland Office). With the transfer of competencies for things like foreign affairs, defence, taxation etc to Scotland itself, there would be a reduced demand for jobs in London (and by the way, a hugely disproportionate number of UK government jobs are in London), and that demand would instead fall in Scotland (admittedly mostly in Edinburgh, as the administrative capital and where the Scottish Parliament is). We'd need tax officers. We'd need a larger civil service to deal with our new competences (the cost of that being off-set by no longer funding the UK civil service). The work of government in Scotland would be more substantial to reflect the increased number and scope of decisions our state would have to take.

Even so, I'd question why a large UK government bureaucracy is an argument for the Union. Perhaps Westminster has been hiring too many people in a civil service capacity, meaning that there is less money to go directly into the provision of public services. The cut and thrust of this, though, has to be "government doesn't stop just because Better Together say so."

"Scottish banks were bailed out with £470 billion from UK taxpayers (Source: Scottish Parliament Information Centre & National Audit Office)"

I'll take the figures as read. Again, though, I'm asking "so what"? Scottish taxpayers money was thrown at transnational corporations with bases in Scotland and for what? To safeguard deposits? No; there was already a government guarantee scheme on those up to £35k per person at the time of the crisis in 2008. For borrowers? No; their loans weren't repayable on demand. If those banks went bust their loan agreement would become an asset to whatever phoenix banks or new organisation took them on, and would continue to be paid under the terms of the agreement. It seems to me that the UK government bailed out the banks simply because it could; not because it was necessarily the best idea. Sometimes having the powers of an economy of scale makes you do things you should really think twice about. If government is going to be tempted to make bad decisions I don't want to give it the chance to make them.

Other small countries like Iceland adopted a different approach to their banks. They let them default, because their governments could not bail them out. That way the actual risk takers (the bond-holders and the investors, and the chief executives) were the ones that lost out; not the ordinary taxpayer and not the ordinary customer. Iceland has recovered pretty strongly from the financial crisis so far, considering some started to label it as a basket case. It is certainly true that countries like Ireland and Spain have had more problems with their domestic banks, but that can be attributed to the huge political and socio-economic imbalances within the Eurozone. I could be wrong, but I don't think Scottish independence supporters are seriously contemplating joining a monetary union with massively macroeconomic and fiscal divergence any time soon. A Sterling zone certainly wouldn't do that any time soon and I don't see any fully developed economy queueing up to join the Euro in its current state. Put simply bailing out the banks wasn't the be all and end all of Scottish prosperity and it wouldn't be in an independent Scotland.

"800,000 Scots live and work in England and Wales without the need for papers or passports (Source General Registrar Office for Scotland)"

That's wonderful. People can live and work in other countries without passports or work permits. If only someone had thought of that idea before. Oh wait. They did. It's called the *European Union*. Any citizen of a member state of the European Union can move about and work in other member states and be treated just as a domestic citizen would. The UK currently has a treaty with the Republic of Ireland which allows people to move between the two countries without showing their passports at the land border, and a similar agreement exists among many European countries called the "Schengen Agreement", which removes border checks there too. Perhaps Better Together would like to explain to us why it is that, in an independent Scotland, there would have to be border posts at Gretna.

It would be politically very stupid for either the Scottish or a rUK government to refuse to enter into such a treaty. Certainly my understanding of the Scottish Government's position is they'd want such a treaty to be put in place, in the same way as the UK government maturely dealt with the question with the Irish. The ball is firmly in Westminster's court on this one. Again, though, I'm delighted that the Tories are joining a campaign on a principle that is central to the European Union of breaking down borders and welcoming people from other countries to live and work here without limits.

"The UK has the World's 2nd biggest aid budget, delivered by life-saving Scots in East Kilbride. (Source Department for International Development)"

I'm not going to go for the easy target here. Though I might be thought of as a "deficit hawk" I completely agree with the principle and goals of the international aid budget and though it needs reformed I think it should be much higher. The question I'd simply ask is this: why can't this continue post independence? What is it about an independent Scotland and a rUK state that makes them less likely to maintain that level of international development aid together? What is to stop them channelling that aid together through a treaty that shares the same institutions? What is to stop them co-ordinating that aid together through NGOs? Put simply, why does independence mean the combined IDA budgets of the successor states will fall and/or be less effective? Answers on a postcard, Better Together.

As an aside, well done East Kilbride. I don't know what you actually *do* or why you do it, but well done.

"The UK means Scots get a seat at the top table at the UN alongside Russia, China and America (The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council)"

I have a lot of sympathy with this argument. The way the UN is structured does give considerable incumbency power to the permanent members of the Security Council. Whether that *should* be the case is another matter, but in international relations we work with what we have. The permanency of that position is mostly predicated on the notion that the UK is a nuclear power. In the long-term, I'd rather we weren't, but I am realistic enough to know that the bargaining and nature of disarmament talks ought to benefit from a moderated voice such as our own in dealings with the Chinese, Russians and US.

An independence settlement would obviously have to address the question of what happens to the UK's nuclear-armed submarines (currently based in Faslane in Scotland). There is strong talk of an independent Scotland refusing to continue to host those weapons. I don't think that will happen (at least not immediately; there may be a transitional lease agreement with the rUK) but if we accept that they will eventually be removed, I struggle to foresee a situation where the rUK would decide simply not to relocate or replace them at an alternative port (even if it isn't as strategically convenient a place).

If they did seek to disarm, I would hope that they would do so in the wider context of disarmament discussions internationally, and that they'd seek assurances of their place on the Security Council, at least for long enough that a proper discussion about its governing structures could take place. The threat to having a moderated "European" or "British" voice on the UN Security Council is, though, both indirect and modest in the event of Scottish independence.

There is a legitimate question, in any case, as to what the Scottish people actually see as their role in the world. Institutions like the UN and NATO have clearly done some good, but they have also been seen as quite aggressive uses of military and diplomatic power by large states on those less able to defend themselves. You don't hear Australia, New Zealand and Canada asking to become part of the UK again to have their voice heard at the table of the Security Council. Independence gives states more freedom to decide which conflicts and international agreements they want to involve themselves in. You have to ask yourself, to what extent do the views of ordinary Scots (or for that matter, ordinary Brits) are reflected in the actions of the UK as their "representative" political actor in international politics. I suspect not a lot. If the UK is making good decisions in international forums, I suspect an independent Scotland would support them. Independence doesn't mean completely divorcing ourselves from international political consensus; on the contrary it gives us greater flexibility as to when we want a part in it.

"Scots save billions on the cost of mortgages due to the UK's AAA credit rating. (Source HMT Analysis)"

First of all, I want to know what the assumptions are here. Billions saved as opposed to what? The *UK* having a poorer credit rating? Scotland itself having a poorer credit rating? Are they implying that an independent Scotland would not be able to sustain a AAA credit rating? What are the economic assumptions for that? How are you linking the government's credit rating to the solvency and liquidity of banks (and thus by extension, the security and cost of ordinary citizens' mortgage agreements)? To what extent do the nominal credit ratings and central bank interest rates of the UK actually correlate to real-world commercial lending? What is it specifically about an independent Scotland that would change that? We need an explanation before we can meaningfully assess what the actual comparator is here, and how likely it is.

Further, I want to know *how many* billions are being saved here. There were, as of 2010, 2,357,424 dwellings in Scotland. (Estimates of Households and Dwellings in Scotland, 2010: Table 1). If we assume that all of them had mortgages (which they don't), a saving of £1 billion over all of the mortgages would be the equivalent of about £424. Because they haven't substantiated this claim, we can't say exactly how many billions (thus how many times we'd have to multiply that £424 figure) or whether this is annually or over the course of the entire mortgage. If it is annually, that does look like a reasonable saving. For many that will be the equivalent to an extra two months' repayments every year. If, however it's over the course of the entire mortgage, that's a saving of less than 0.5% of the value of the median house price in Scotland. That's minute. Most would barely notice that difference over a 25 year period.

This claim can accurately be summed up as weasel words and blank assertion. It provides no analysis as to whether credit ratings are actually particularly accurate reflections of underlying economic performance, it provides no analysis of why UK institutions are specifically stronger than would be Scottish ones, and it provides no analysis as to why a minor change in Scotland's credit rating would significantly affect the cost of a mortgage to your average Scottish home-buyer.

"The pensions of 1 million Scots are guaranteed by the UK welfare system. (Source Department for Work and Pensions)"

It's official. According to Better Together, the UK Government is the only government capable of raising funds for, and paying funds out for, the pensions of old people and those formerly employed by the state. There is no analysis here at all about why these pensions cannot or will not be protected in an independent Scotland. They have not explained why this is an argument for the Union. This is like saying "the trees in Scotland are green with it as part of the UK. This is an excellent argument for why Scotland and the UK are better together".

And that's just the point

To me, these claims, with the honourable exception of realpolitik with the UN on foreign policy, represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the debate by Better Together. It's not enough simply to say "there's lots of nice stuff in the UK". You have to explain, rather than simply state, why these nice things cannot, or are less likely to be able to be, achieved in an independent Scotland working in partnership with the rest of the UK and Europe. You have to explain specifically why it is that these things are only made possible with a UK. You have to explain why Scotland won't still work closely with the UK on issues like trade, international development aid, foreign policy.

You also have to explain why the UK is best placed to deliver more in decentralised and effective democratic government than an independent Scotland. You need to show the Scottish people that you're serious about proper federalism or significant transfers of taxation and legislative powers to the Scottish Government, rather than piecemeal changes like the new Scotland Act. You have to show Scotland why the social union between our countries cannot survive without the political institutions of Westminster and its relatives. You have to show us why those political institutions represent a better way of doing things (either as they are now, or with specific and prioritised reforms) than to transfer those powers to Holyrood and to let Scotland remould its own institutions with its own new Constitutional Convention in the run up to establishing a new independent country.

Yes Scotland: you'll have to do better than
social democracy milk and honey too
And let's be clear, I'm not exonerating Yes Scotland or the SNP Government in this. The appropriate argument for YesScotland is not simply "no more nukes" or "land of milk and honey, free tuition, infinite healthcare, free burgers for everyone" either. It has to be about explaining why the opposite is true in those questions above. They have to explain why Scotland can maintain the benefits of economies of scale without the negative effects of excessive centralisation of bureaucracy and decision-making to Westminster. They have to explain why, structurally and realistically, institutional reform will be done more timely and better by an independent Scotland, and explain why a new constitution for local control of our affairs will be better achieved through Holyrood than Westminster. They have to explain more clearly (and they have started to do this) why you don't need the political and institutional structures of the UK to benefit from the commonality of our cultures and outlook in social union. They need to give a broad idea (though clearly not every last minutiae of specifics) of the choices Scotland will have in positioning itself in the world: to show us how our structures can fit in with institutions like the EU, NATO and the UN, should we choose to be a part of them (and on all three fronts, I hope we will).

But as I have indicated, I don't see answers coming from BetterTogether. None. None at all. There has to be a stronger case for the Union than that. If there isn't, then I cannot for the life of me understand why YesScotland aren't miles ahead in the polls. This debate has to get a lot smarter on both sides and it has to do it soon. Independence is not about speculation about which constitutional settlement gives you the most stuff; it's about being the country we want to be, with the institutions we want to have, and regaining control of our society and moulding it into what we want it to be.


  1. Re 'Scottish' banks (no such thing) it seems that the FED put far more money into them than anyone else.

    Reprise: Fed Audit – $16 Trillion in Secret Bailouts

    1. There is such a thing as a Scottish bank (in that companies are actually designated as Scottish or English and Welsh under the Companies Act). Indeed all Scottish companies are designated "SC" before their numbers.

      That said, the substantive point is true. Banks are transnational organisations. Their finance, in no meaningful sense, rests permanently in their registered office's country.

    2. *Bing* give the man a prize.

      Now, banks aren't a monolithic entity. They consist of a number of legal entities. And the bit that needed bailing out wasn't the entire banking group, but specific legal entities, each with their own registration, that dealt with Institutional Banking. The bits that lent to each other and devised odd financial instruments that packaged up bad mortgage debt and sold it on.

      And can you guess where those legal entities were registered (certainly with RBS and I think with HBoS too)? Here's a clue, the nearest major river begins with Th...

      'Scottish' banks my arse. The entire debacle and its bailout didn't emerge out more than 2 miles from the City of London. is where they live these days.

  2. A couple of other questions I'd really like to see answered by Better Together and which don't seem to be being asked are

    1. What will happen to the Barnett formula over the next few years? I've heard a lot of talk of cutting this, and there is a - hugely misguided - idea in England that Scotland is somehow getting too good a deal, though if anything we're getting a lot less than we should. What protection do we have against a Westminster government arbitrarily changing the rules and disproportionately hitting Scotland with a huge amount of cuts?

    And, connected to this

    2. How is Barnett funding (or its replacement if it's going to be changed) connected to public sector spending down south? And what happens to this if England carries on privatising things like the NHS and other previously public services so they are no longer public service? Will, or could, Scotland end up with funding that has conditionality attatched to it that we also privatise services here? What protection to we have to ensure this isn't the case?

    Better Together are asking us to reject the chance of having our own taxes raised and spent in Scotland, for Scotland, in favour of carrying on sending all of them to Westminster and allowing Westmisnter to dole back out a portion for devolved issues like health. What democratic control will we be allowed that would protect us from Westminster imposing its will if it deciced it didn't want us to move a certain way?

  3. I know banks are not particularly popular at the moment but has anyone asked how many English people are employed by Scottish companies e.g. the Royal Bank of Scotland?

  4. If we assume this somewhat biased Blog is accurate, I have not seen one shred of evidence that being independant cures any of these issue. You swop one group of politicians in London for another group in Edinburgh. The London version has its flaws but it does continually balance the views of left and right wing by altering its members. If Scotland were to be elected there is no need for the SNP, there task is done. We then end up with a Scotland controlled for ever by a body of Left Wing Socialist SMPs from Central Scotland. I like being Scottish, and part of the UK. But then again I don't think I'm small minded and insular.

    1. This blog is written by someone who used to be against Scottish Independence. To this day if presented with a genuine federal alternative that I honestly believed could be delivered? Then I would abstain on the question of independence.

      As for there "not being a shred of evidence that being independent cures any of these issues", exactly what do you mean? The burden of proof isn't for the independence campaign to prove a negative. It is for the Better Together campaign to explain why these "strengths" of the Union would be lost.

      As for the balance of the political landscape post independence, yes, the SNP may disband. Yes, it's even plausible that "left wing socialists" would win a lot of Scottish elections (though I don't think it will happen; independence is the only hope of a resurgent centre-right in Scotland). But that's called democracy. If the Scottish people make those choices, with independence they'll have to live with them.

      This is about us taking responsibility for our own affairs. If you think the Scottish discourse is so badly damaged by "left-wing" thinking, ask yourself why that is. It's because we've not had to make big and difficult decisions for ourselves, leaving it as an easy political option. Perhaps it's time we gave Scotland a reality check!

    2. The SNP will never disband - there is too much of an emotional brand loyalty. Although i do see a fundamental shift occurring with the party as the tartan tories fall out and a centre right re-sureges

    3. A few years ago the SNP were a united band from across the political spectrum, united under the Indy issue. Nowadays they have developed into bar far the most credible party in politics and as such will continue.

      Some members, and possible MSPs, may leave but the party will continue.

      Testament to their ability above the others are the number of SNP voters who will continue to do so but do not plan to vote YES in the referendum.

      The days of disbanding the SNP within a 100 days of a referendum win have been dispatched to history a long time ago.

    4. Why is it the pro union campaign has to prove its' case and the nationalists do not. The pro union claim has 300 years of history behind it, not all of it good by any means, but it is a substantial track record. With no such evidence the SNP does little to show the advantages of independance. The SNP bend with their wind. One day we should be like the Irish, then when that turns sour we should be like the Icelanders, or perhaps the Norwegians. Whoever is doing best at the time. Because their cause looks fragile they now want to stay aligned to the UK for currency, financial structure and even Royalty. Not because they want to but because they have no other answer that will not expose their anti English(Tory) rhetoric. Why do they not peddle our own currency, the Scottish Pound, with an exchange rate like the Euro(another idea they liked at one time) which is not tied to the Bank of England. Why should an Independant England want to build warships in Govan and keep large UK agencies in Scotland.
      The concept that Scotland will be better led by Scottish MPs in Holyrood is naieve, especially when the SNP is so keen to prove it wants to remain part of Europe, just not the English bit unless it is of use to them.
      I come from the Central Belt but live in the North of Scotland. Why should I be "ruled" any more by Holyrood than London or my local council.
      The SNP profer the politics of devision and tribalism and bitterness in a world where we are trying to come together. A sad inditement for such a great nation.

    5. Rab, I think the point being made was that the anti-Independence leaflets were making claims not supported by the facts. It is for these claims that they have to make a case. I'm sure we'd all agree that the pro-independence case also has to be made. However it's very sloppy logic to infer that there's somehow an automatic case against independence because of the last 300 years of history. As to your calling the pro-independence camp "anti English(Tory)". It's not exactly clear what you mean, but if you intend to imply that we're motivated by racist sentiment then it's a lazy and undignified slur. You need to clarify (and withdraw if necessary).
      I appreciate that you'd prefer to be governed more locally. Most of us want to ensure there's an appropriate spread of the spectrum of powers. But if you are suggesting that return of powers from London to Edinburgh isn't going far enough then you seem very confused about what side of the argument you are on.

    6. Paul, 300 years doesn't give a case for independance but it gives a fairly accurate vision of how a country has got to where it is and the way it will evolve. The UK government has many faults but as a society we know what we have voted for. The SNP has been only really growing for less than 50 years, been a political power for under 20 and on the result of one, yes one, successful election they think it gives them a mandate to tear up the UK. This will be more possible if they give the vote to 17 and 16 year olds who were not part of the voting procedure that gives them their majority. Whenever the FM is questioned on the performance of his government his first reaction is to compare it with the London parliament, particularly if it is of the Tory persuasion. He doesn't say what he will do, just he will do it better than London. If the SNP are not anti English then why not just expand devolution, devo max. That is only now popular with the SNP because Mr Salmond can see defeat. He has no mandate to include this in his referendum. Refering to local powers you misunderstand my point. What is the basis is there that Holyrood can do better than London and if so where does that stop. Aberdeen is the powerhouse of the Scottish economy so can they be disgruntled at Central Scotland telling them what to do. Hopefully we will get one question in this referendum, should Scotland become an Independant country. To waist 2 years discussing and using political manoeuvering to improve your position at the expence of trying to cure the many ills in Scottish society is such a waist.

    7. Robert, One election victory gives the victor a mandate to carry out their manifesto promises. That's generally how democracy works.
      You have utterly failed to explain why being pro-independence is anti-english. It's just empty rhetoric.
      The pro-independence movement is "anti-being-part-of-the-UK", so unless "being part of the UK" is synonymous with "English" then you're just plain wrong. I absolutely get your point about localism. Lines can be drawn in many places, and if the people of Aberdeen felt they had a legitimate reason to leave Scotland then they have a right to campaign for it. The difference being, of course, that Aberdeen, like every other local authority, has no legal existence other than that granted by the powers above. Scotland, however is a long-standing soveregn nation-state which entered into a Union with another country and which may decide soon to dissolve that Union. Do you seriously propose to campaign for Aberdeen-nationalism? Will that not make you anti-Scots?

    8. Paul, you say "Scotland, however is a long-standing soveregn nation-state which entered into a Union with another country". Scotland took over England and Scots have been implicated in the British Government ever since. Why do they now want to give it up?
      After the Darien debacle Scotland was very poor; after Union with England she was much richer. Why does she want to give that up?
      Just a thought...

    9. Sorry - Scotland took over England?!? What on earth do you mean??
      The Darien scheme was a disaster and crippled the Scots economy. The impact was made all the more significant by legislation (passed by "our" king) which made it a criminal offence for the English or their allies to provide assistance. I have to ask why?
      Anyway - what is your point? Your post does not make any meaningful point. If Scotland chooses to go its own way, it will do so. But if you believe the relative wealth 300 years ago should still be considered relevant then I'm frankly baffled. what other 300-year old considerations should we take into account? Should women and non-property-owners be denied the vote too?

    10. The SNP is a Social Democratic party with similar policies and approach to Social Democrats(in coalition with the Greens) in Northern Westphalia in Germany. One of the wealthiest states in Germany. Not a bad ambition for Scotland.I would have thought Labour would want to be part of that.
      The Tories, well Scotland is just a resource to them: men for the frontline, land for estates, oil and gas, Scottish Water, if they get their way, with the help of the LibDems.

  5. Are you seriously suggesting that it is 'good for us' that when almost all of Scotland vote left, we are occasionally given right?!

  6. I agree with about 99% of this -I just wanted to pick you up one small thing that came from my dissertation, about mutual.

    Whilst not necessarily a guarantor, there is a case which has gone before which is similar enough to compare. The velvet divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    When the monetary union (it lasted just over a month)/split happened mutual trade between the two countries fell by some 25% - which meant that GDP figures in the next year were down 1% and 4% respectively.

    This doesn't seem like a great deal - but in times of recession (something that won't be over by 2016 - if indy happens) then it could have a serious knock on effect.

    Not serious enough not to go for indy - but seriously worth considering.

    (All sourced from: Ales Capek, Gerald W. Samaza, ‘Czech and Slovak Economic Relations’, Europe-Asia Studies 45 (1993): 229

  7. It's worth pointing out that the Velvet Divorce took place pre times of the full implementation of the European Economic Community (as was), so there wasn't a single market. I'd have to look into a more detailed analysis of things like trade barriers and tariffs between the two countries and the specifics to see what particular aspects of the respective economies caused the drop-off in trade.

    It's certainly possible that, with a split in the monetary union, the total amount of trade would have fallen a fair amount. It would be interesting to see the commensurate level of trade among other neighbouring countries, to see if that broadly accounts or compensates for the difference, and to see the long-term effect of trade between them and other countries with the Slovaks moving to the Euro and both of them having joined the single market.

    Given the SNP's intention is to use Sterling, and if there is a causal relationship between monetary union and aggregate trade in all circumstances, I'd remain unconcerned about this. Although my personal preference is for a Scottish currency, and the greater fiscal flexibility that brings, I don't see the economies of Scotland and rUK diverging as rapidly as happened in the Velvet Divorce. The effect of the single market has undoubtedly been to reduce (quite significantly) the effect of monetary barriers to trade within Europe, and is one of the reasons why I don't think the Euro was necessarily an essential part of those reforms.

  8. A lot of UK government jobs in Scotland are actually doing 'English work' - ie. there's huge benefits processing centres, DWP call centres and, as you mention, DFID being based in East Kilbride.
    These were deliberately farmed out to Scotland (and other areas eg. N Ireland, NE England) to provide jobs rather than all being based in SE England.
    Having had conversations with PCS union reps about this, there is a lot of, very legitimate, fear in these workplaces about what will happen to their jobs post-indy. Obviously all these workplaces are being absolutely hammered by the UK Government as it is, but the Scottish Government would do well to place guarantees on these jobs post-indy.

  9. According to the Office of National Statistics there are 464000 Civil Servants in Great Britain. According to the Scottish Government there are 29400 Civil Servants in Scotland. That's 6.3% of the GB total.
    According to ONS, the population of England & Wales is 55.240M and the population of Scotland is 5.222M. that means the Scottish population is 9.45% of GB.
    Evidently it is not Scotland that is being subsidised by civil service jobs. Unless all the jobs in Scotland are so highly paid it makes up the shortfall! Otherwise we should expect to have 43848 Civil Servants - that's over 14 thousand more jobs to bring Scotland up to parity with England and Wales. For comparison the entire staff of the DfID (not just EK) is 1,680.

  10. Using the same ONS sources for populations, and taking expenditure figures from we get the following highlights.
    Scotland has 8.39% of the UK population and gets 8.22% of government expenditure whilst England has 83.89% population to 84.14% of expenditure (all excluding Defence costs).
    So a very, very slight overspend in England relative to population, but not exactly outrageous. Except when one considers the constant wailing and carping about Scotland being a "subsidy junkie". In that context it makes my blood boil, like so many of the other lies from the anti-independence camp..

  11. The 'Better Dominated' campaign will still rigidly to scaremongering as it's their only avenue of attack. What I can't understand is why Labour, founded on the principle of Home Rule for Scotland, are absolutely preoccupied with doing down Scotland at every turn. This is Scotland's, and Labour's opportunity to turn the screw on the Eton Tories and wring as much concessions from the Westminster Overlords as possible. With Labour's built in dominance of Scottish politics (well a credible Labour Party anyway)whatever the outcome of the referendum Labour should be positioning itself as the positive voice of Scotland. If Scottish Labour broke ranks now and sided with the Yes Campaign, the Tories would all but concede 'DevoMax' right now. This would be seen by the people of Scotland as a massive victory, with Scottish Labour a distinct, positive, strong alternative to govern. It would also provide the Tories down south the opportunity to slash the number of Scots turning up for their expenses at Westminster thus virtually guaranteeing continued Tory rule in E&W. So just why are the Scottish Labour so inclined to tow the Westminster line ? Is it because Labour know they would fail miserably if ever put in power at Holyrood ?