I had that wee Wullie Bain at my door the other day. I didn’t know it was Wullie at the door, seeing as how at the time I was engaged with a wullie of my own – which I refuse to describe as wee, seeing as how I’m a guy. I was attempting to stop it peeing all over the bathroom floor when the door went and distracted me.
As any woman will tell you, it doesn’t take much for a man to soak the toilet seat and the surrounding floor, although many women are also prone to moaning when men don’t put the seat down afterwards. I was never entirely sure why my female friends and relatives complained about that, as if the toilet seat is left up then at least they have the confidence of knowing that the men in their lives haven’t just peed all over the toilet seat and not told them. Because men will do that. Men are very like a Better Together No Thanks canvassing in this respect, as lies by omission are a prominent feature of Better Together literature too.
So having successfully ensured that there was no pee on the floor or the toilet seat – no, honest – I came out the cludgie to find an Untied with Labour No Thanks leafletty thingy on the hall floor – Labour’s “Scottish Referendum Special”. So I hadn’t managed to stop pish from landing on the floor after all. Then I took the dug oot and saw Wullie oot – the other one, mine was carefully hidden away behind zipped flies – with a wee group of hingers on trying and failing to gain entry to a close further down the street.
But still, at least I got some more raw materials for the dug to practise his artistic skills on. He’s thinking papier maché this time. Artistic skills were also very much in evidence in the Labour leaflet, which gave artistically interpreted answers to “your top questions” about independence and I was gutted that I hadn’t answered the door to Wullie, or he could have explained them in the medium of interperative dance.
So to save you the bother of rebutting Labour’s attempt at a balletic presentation of non-answers, here are Labour’s questions, and the answers they don’t give.
1: Will we keep the pound after independence?
Despite the heading “your top questions answered”, Labour’s leaflet doesn’t answer this question at all. In case you were wondering, the answer is Yes, we will. Even senior members of the UK cabinet have admitted it. Instead Labour restates the line that the Unionist parties have ruled out a currency union, like the Unionist parties have never lied about anything in the past. Then it goes to say – In the SNP’s own words ‘the SNP Government have no currency plan for an independent Scotland’.
These are not in fact the words of the SNP Government, nor are they even the words of any official SNP policy statement, they are not even the off the cuff remarks of any member of the SNP government. They’re the words of Jim Sillar, the retired MSP who is opposed to the present policy of the SNP to seek a currency union and to remain a member of the EU. Jim made the statement in an article in the Daily Record with reference to the statement from the Unionist parties that a currency union wouldn’t happen. Jim Sillars was saying that the SNP Government have no plan to set up an alternative Scottish currency – Jim’s preferred option. They don’t have any such plan because Scotland is going to keep the pound.
Jim Sillar’s preferences are perfectly valid, but they’re not the policy of the present Scottish Government and it’s highly misleading for Labour to pretend that they are. We could just as easily tell the Labour canvasser “In Labour’s own words: the Westminster system is holding us back and not allowing us to fully realise [Scotland’s] fantastic potential as a forward-looking, progressive nation.” These are the words of Alex Mosson, former Labour Lord Provost of Glasgow who supports a Yes vote. Alex Mosson’s words represent official Labour policy as much as Jim Sillar’s words represent the words of the present SNP Government.
If Scotland votes Yes, we keep the pound, formal currency union or not. Ireland kept Sterling after independence in 1922, until the Saorstat Punt was established in 1928 and was pegged 1:1 with Sterling. Renamed the Irish Punt in 1938, it remained pegged to Sterling at a 1 for 1 exchange rate until 31 December 1998 when Ireland joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in preparation for the introduction of the Euro.
There are several options which allow Scotland to keep the pound. A formal currency union which is the preferred policy of the Scottish Government, or using Sterling without a formal currency union, or – the most likely scenario, a currency union which the Westminster parties agree to but call something else in order to allow them to save face with the electorate south of the Border.
For more information about Scotland’s currency options, and why we will be keeping the pound, see here:
Academic evidence adds weight to case for independence, from Business for Scotland http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/new-academic-evidence-adds-weight-to-independence-case/
Evidence given by Professor Anton Muscatelli to the Scottish Parliament
2. What’s best for jobs, schools and hospitals?
Labour gives another non-answer here, stating that Scotland receives over £1200 per person more in government expenditure than the rest of the UK, omitting the important fact that Scotland also pays in more per head of population than any other part of the UK except London. What they also don’t tell you is that UK Government expenditure on Scotland also includes Scotland’s notional share of projects which the UK Government deems to be “UK national”, these include really useful things like Trident, the High Speed Railway between London and Birmingham, London Crossrail, and the London sewer upgrade. Scotland really is paying so that Westminster can take the piss. After Scottish independence, Scotland’s taxes will not be spent on these vanity projects – they will be spent to develop Scotland’s jobs, schools and hospitals. We will have more money after independence, not less, and Scotland’s revenues will stay in Scotland to benefit Scotland, not the richest parts of the rest of the UK.
As part of the non-answer, Labour also repeats the threats made by several prominent businesses that independence is bad for jobs and the economy. These are the same companies who made the same threats in 1979, and again in 1997, when Scotland was debating devolution. Companies will not remove themselves from a profitable market, and after independence Scotland will remain profitable. The scare stories are baseless.
What’s best for Scottish jobs is for a government responsible to the people of Scotland to have its hands on the levers of economic management. Currently Scotland lacks the ability to develop her own economy in a way which is of long term benefit to Scotland’s population. Instead we live in a UK which has decided that the motor of its economy is to be the financial sector based in the City of London. The UK, and Scotland with it, have witnessed the decimation of the manufacturing sector, and the growth of temporary and transient contract work which doesn’t pay a living wage while a small minority get very wealthy indeed. This is not a model which is going to provide for all citizens to live in dignity. Only with independence can Scotland alter its economic strategy in order to create real jobs which pay real wages. And Scotland has the resources, the skills, and the talent to do so. For the dignity of labour and for a living wage, vote yes.
Scotland’s schools and education system are already fully devolved. However like other Scottish public services their funding depends upon the block grant which Westminster passes to Scotland every year, because Westminster collects the taxes and revenues and makes all the borrowing decisions. This means there is in practice a ceiling on the aspirations of Scotland’s education system, it can only ever be as good as Westminster funding will allow. But without Westminster’s ceiling, Scotland can plough the resources into an education that will allow this country’s young people to soar.
The biggest threat to Scotland’s NHS is a No vote. The NHS in England is being subject to increasing internal marketisation, driving different arms of the health services into competition with one another, and private operators are increasingly being awarded contracts to deliver NHS services. It’s privatisation by the back door. Although Scotland’s NHS is under the control of Holyrood, the money Scotland receives in her block grant from Westminster is determined by UK spending in the rest of the UK. The UK Government seeks to reduce the costs of running the NHS by privatising large parts of it, this will reduce the amount of money Scotland gets for running the Scottish NHS.
For more information about jobs, schools and hospitals in an independent Scotland see here:
Iain MacWhirter explains the real threat to the NHS is a No vote
Yes NHS Facebook page
What will happen to the NHS in an independent Scotland?
3. How secure will our pensions be?
State pensions will continue to be paid at the same rate in an independent Scotland. The Scottish Government has committed itself to maintaining the “triple lock” on state pensions, and moreover has said that it will not increase the retirement age as is planned by the UK Government and will not permit Scottish pensions to fall below the level paid in the rest of the UK.
Labour tells us that pensions are better protected by being backed up by a “strong and secure economy”. The UK economy is dominated by the needs and interests of the financial sector of the City of London, which as the crash of 2008 proved is considerably more volatile than oil. According to the economic and credit ratings agency Standard and Poors, Scotland has a broad-based economy which is more than capable of providing for the needs of Scotland’s population.
The Scottish Government plans to use Scotland’s revenues and income to reindustrialise the country in a sustainable way, guaranteeing a secure future for all of us. The question is then, which is the stronger and more secure economy – an economy geared to reindustrialise the country and create sustainable jobs and which uses Scotland’s massive natural resources to invest in Scotland, or an economy based upon the casino capitalism of the City of London where Scotland’s resources are leeched away and where the jobs created are unskilled non-jobs on zero-hours contracts. I know where I’d feel my pension was safer.
For more information about pensions and how Scotland can afford to maintain a decent income for a dignified life for all our older people, see here:
Standard and Poors report on the economic potential of Scotland
Pensions promise in an independent Scotland, by Nicola Sturgeon
Pensions in an independent Scotland, the Scottish Government’s view
4. Will Scotland be better off if it has all the oil revenue?
Labour doesn’t answer this one either, since the answer is obviously “D’oh. Of course. That’s a really really stupid question.” After all how can you NOT be better off if you get to keep all your income instead of letting someone else collect it then giving you some of it back at their own discretion as pocket money.
But that doesn’t stop Labour’s creative choreographic copy writers from trying to imply otherwise. Scotland, they tell us, has run a deficit for 20 of the last 21 years. What they don’t tell you is that Scotland’s deficit is smaller than that of the rest of the UK, nor that the reason we have a deficit is because of the spending priorities of the UK Government. All those Trident missiles and London commuter railways don’t come cheap you know.
Scotland’s oil revenues are currently paid to the UK Treasury, which makes the decisions about how to spend them. They’re not all spent on or in Scotland. After independence they would be, and that’s why Westminster Tories are keen for Scotland not to become independent – Or did you think they don’t want us to go because they really love us?
The McCrone Report, which was hidden by successive UK Governments for decades, revealed that with full control of its own oil revenues and resources, Scotland would be an embarrassingly wealthy country.
Labour also tells us that as supplies of oil diminish, they become more expensive to extract. This is true, however it’s also true that as supplies diminish, prices go up, making it more commercially viable to extract deposits that are more difficult to access. Scotland will continue to produce significant quantities of oil for many decades to come, the question we face in September is which government is the best steward of our remaining oil resources – a government in Westminster which treats Scottish oil revenue as another income stream to spend on strutting the world stage, or a government in Edinburgh which uses the income to develop the economy and prospects of Scotland and to invest in Scotland’s future.
For more information about Scotland’s oil and the potential it gives this country, see here:
The McCrone Report
The oil debate for busy people
Is Scotland’s economy too dependent on oil?
How valuable are the expected tax revenues from Scotland’s oil and gas?
5. Will Scotland remain a part of the European Union?
Yes, we will. And that’s a certainty because there is no mechanism by which the EU can expel Scotland against its wishes as a punishment for making a democratic and perfectly legal and constitutionally valid decision to become independent. The foundation treaties of the EU oblige EU states to respect, accept, and defend such democratic decisions. Becoming independent will not result in Scotland’s automatic explusion from the EU, automatic expulsion is against EU law – as explained in a legal paper written by Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott of Oxford University (here). So Scotland will remain a part of the EU, and will negotiate full membership in its own right from within the EU.
Viewed in that light, the pronouncements of a former President of the European Commission that Scotland will find it very difficult to reapply for membership are kind of meaningless. José Manuel Barroso is a political ally of David Cameron, so what he said was entirely predictable and was politically motivated, not a genuine statement of EU policy. The truth is that such matters are not within the powers of the EU President to decide. His opinion is not shared by the current President of the European Commission, who is not a political ally of David Cameron. Junker said that he would accept the result of the Scottish referendum whichever way the vote went.
Labour also asserts that Scotland would lose the UK’s existing EU opt outs, such as the opt out which allows the UK never to adopt the euro as British currency. Although it has an almost fetishistic standing amongst UK politicians, this opt out is pretty meaningless. No EU member state can be forced to adopt the euro. Sweden and the Czech Republic don’t have formal opt outs on the euro, but equally have no intention of giving up their own currencies. In order to adopt the euro, a country must first sign up to the ERM, as Ireland did in 1999. Signing up to the ERM is entirely voluntary, no EU country can be compelled to join it. No ERM, no euro. That’s the only opt out anyone needs.
Other UK opt outs depend upon existing UK commitments to the EU and a Scotland that’s a part of the UK. For example the UK opt out on the Schengen common travel area rests upon the fact that the UK currently doesn’t have a land border with another Schengen state. If Westminster decides to oppose an independent Scotland’s decision to remain a part of the Common Travel Area consisting of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (and these last two are not even part of the EU), then all of a sudden it undermines its own Schengen opt out. After a yes vote in September, watch Westminster turn into an enthusiastic advocate of Scotland not joining Schengen.
But we can’t be certain we will remain a part of the EU if we remain governed by Westminster. David Cameron has committed the Conservatives to an in-out referendum on EU membership in 2017. It’s looking increasingly likely that Labour will not win the next UK General Election, meaning that Scotland could face an exit from the EU whether voters in Scotland choose to leave or not.
For more information about Scotland and the EU, see here:
How easily could an independent Scotland join the EU? By Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, professor of European and human rights law at Oxford University.
Scotland’s accession to the EU: Written evidence by Professor Graham Avery
6. What will be the cost of becoming an independent Scotland?
You’d think this question refers to the cost of setting up an independent Scotland. At least that’s how I’d interpret “the cost of becoming independent”, but then I’m not a creative choreographer and have two left feet. But that makes me way more socialist than the two right feet of the current Labour leadership, so I don’t feel hard done by.
In case you were wondering, this is estimated at an initial cost of around £200 million, with total costs between around £600 million and an upper level of £1.5 billion. It’s impossible to arrive at an exact figure as the amount depends upon negotiations between Holyrood and Westminster after a Yes vote. And Westminster refuses to “pre-negotiate” Scottish independence. But we can at least be certain that the upper figure, £1.5 billion will only apply should Westminster refuse to acknowledge that Scotland gets its due share of UK assets. If that happens, we can expect to be compensated in other ways.
These figures are based upon the calculations of Professor Patrick Dunleavy, who produced the research which the UK Treasury used as a basis of its estimate of start up costs of £2.7 billion, which Professor Dunleavy later strongly criticised as being over inflated by a factor of 12. The figure of £2.7 billion was given by the UK Treasury for the setting up of new Scottish departments of government, these costs are estimated by Professor Dunleavy as more realistically in the order of £200 million.
Big numbers are always a big eye watering, and usually come under the heading of blah blah blah that most normal people tune out from. So let’s put them into a bit of perspective. The UK Government is paying £14.8 billion towards the costs of the London Crossrail project. It’s a new railway line and tunnel running east-west below the centre of one of the most crowded cities in the world. The UK Government has classified it as a UK national project, which means that taxpayers from Scotland contribute 10.4% of the cost, so Scotland is paying £1.54 billion towards it. We’d no longer be paying for London Crossrail after independence, representing an immediate saving to the Scottish budget of £1.54 billion. And there’s all your start up costs there, without even noticing.
However Labour, being Labour, prefers to answer an entirely different question to the one they actually ask themselves. They decide to answer the question “What would it cost Scotland if it was independent but kept all the same spending priorities and tax policies as it does as part of the UK?” That’s the question that the Institute for Financial Studies were asking themselves when they came up with the figure that Scotland would have to raise taxes by £1000 per person per year in order to maintain current spending levels. If Scotland maintains current UK spending priorities, the future is bleak indeed.
But of course the whole point of independence is so that the people of Scotland have a parliament with the powers to tackle Scotland’s problems, and to grow and develop Scotland into a land fit for all her citizens.
For more information about the costs and more importantly the benefits, of an independent Scotland, see here:
Will it cost too much to become independent?
The Common Weal: a model for economic and social development in Scotland
I’ve put in a number of links to further information on each of Labour’s six questions, but they are only a tiny sample of the information and links that are out there. And that’s where you come in, please leave your links, saying which question(s) they relate to, and I’ll add them to the links here. Then the next person with a dancing Wullie at their door will already have the real answers to Labour’s six questions.