The latest scare story from Project Fear came in the form of a report from the IFS which apparently tells us that if Scotland becomes independent, we’ll be screwed (although possibly not royally), penurious, bankrupt, beggared, and impoverished. We will in fact be so skint that it even made the BBC news at 6, so that viewers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could also appreciate just how poor we’re going to be. Since Scotland rarely makes it onto the UK national news, because if it doesn’t happen in London then it’s not national at all, that must mean we’ll be extremely poor indeed. Are you scared yet?
How any of this differs from last month’s report from the IFS telling us much the same thing is not entirely clear. That was the one that said an indy Scotland would have to double taxes, as it would be magically unable to raise revenues any other way due to a curse put on it at birth by the wicked Fairy Godmother Osbornia. But it didn’t mention that if tax raising was the only method of dealing with the UK’s massive deficit, the rUK would have to raise taxes even more.
It’s a bit like one dug crapping on top of another dug’s turd, the reports all merge into one big amorphous toley. You don’t ask which backside it came from and you don’t poke it too closely to discover whether there is anything solid in there. But Project Fear collects it all anyway and flings it with the excitable glee of a troop of baboons, who not coincidentally are equally renowned for their blue arses.
Like most people I’m not an economist, instead I’m one of those curmudgeonly auld gits who believes that if a nation is only deserving of independence if it can be proven that a couple on the average wage would be £2.56 better off each week as a result, then the entire exercise is probably a waste of time.
The point of independence is that it gives Scotland the ability to do things its own way, to build a fairer and more just society, and to find our own solutions to our own problems with full control over our own resources. This desire has arisen because the present system of Westminster government only ever covers itself in glory of the jingoistic variety. Tackling income inequality, or ensuring that the country has an economic base outside the casino of the City of London are not high on its list of priorities.
However what the economists of the IFS are seemingly unable to factor into their models is that doing things differently is what the show is all about. We want independence because we don’t want to do things like Westminster, yet we’re presented with an economic forecast that assumes that for 50 years into an independent Scotland, we’ll still be operating with the tax policies and spending priorities of the UK, circa 2012.
A long time ago I had a book called The Shape of Futures Past, it was an entertaining trawl through past predictions. Not those of the Nostradamus cyptic woo variety, although Doth hiss foul venom the Orge of Clota, poisoning his nest for to propitiate Tamesis, is clearly a foreboding of Ian Davidson. This was a book about serious attempts from previous centuries and decades to predict the future. What they all had in common was that they were hilariously off the mark. None of them predicted the huge revolution in social attitudes in the post WW2 era.
Instead they concentrated on technological progress, and even then most often got it wrong. In the 1920s they predicted traffic jams of biplanes, monorails everywhere, and the City of London would be under a vast glass dome to insulate it from the harsh denuded wilderness beyond. Which come to think of it isn’t so hilariously inaccurate after all.
Reading about the latest dire predictions from Project Fear, I couldn’t help thinking they were really describing a wee wifie in a 1950s pinny waiting at home in her nuclear powered kitchen with futuristic 1950s appliances, making the dinner for hubby. He was at that moment flying home from the office on his plutonium fueled personal jet-pack, without his trilby getting blown off or his suit getting creased thanks to the miracle of manmade fibres, and when he got home he’d tell the little woman how the family budget was being spent.
However if you can be bothered to trawl through the IFS report, it actually says something rather different from the unremittingly negative spin put upon it by Better Together. The report tells us that:
if we continue to manage our affairs the way Westminster does,
if we adopt the exact same government priorities as Westminster,
if we collect taxes the way Westminster collects them (or rather doesn’t collect them if you’re a large company),
if we spend those taxes on the same things Westminster spends them on,
if we do nothing and vote No,
then we really will find ourselves under a never-ending barrage of jobbies from blue arsed baboons.