It’s a quiet news day. No other former Labour leaders have announced their decision to eat kangaroo testicles on national TV, and no more former SNP leaders have announced their decision to set up a broadcasting studio in Vladimir Putin’s front room where they’re going to read out the Kremlin’s little list of things that Russia would like to see happen in Scotland, followed by a translation of And Quiet Flows the Don into Doric. (At least according to the Scottish Unionist media’s depiction of events.) Even all the Putinbots have been reduced to tweeting random lines from Scot Squad.
Back in the real world it’s looking increasingly likely that the UK’s talks with the EU could end in disaster. Ireland is deeply unhappy that the work that the UK has put into ensuring there is no hard border between the Republic and the North after Brexit amounts to Brexiteers stamping their ruby red slippers and wishing on a star. A hard border is a logical consequence of the UK leaving the customs union and the single market, and it can’t be wished away. Ireland has already hinted that it’s going to wield its veto and block any talks on a post-Brexit trade deal until this issue is dealt with to Ireland’s satisfaction. The days that the UK could bully the Irish Republic are gone. But that’s not really news, because it’s not about how Scottish independence supporters are all agents of the Kremlin.
While we’re on the topic of the single market, there’s something that annoys me. It annoys me that apologists for the British state go on about Russian inspired misinformation when they’re perfectly happy to peddle misinformation of their own. It would be lovely if British nationalists and their hangers on would stop with the guff about a “UK single market”. Not that it’s going to happen mind you. SNP MSP Joan McAlpine got dog’s abuse in the British nationalist press for stating the obvious, but she was correct. There is no such thing as a UK single market. “The UK Single Market” is a political and propaganda term invented by supporters of the British state who seek to prevent Scottish independence by drawing a false equivalence between the union that is the collection of sovereign states which comprise the EU and the supposed union that is the incorporating unitary state of the UK.
A single market is a precisely defined term, and it refers to what you get when several distinct and discrete national markets come together into a mutually agreed and negotiated regulatory framework. That’s decidedly not what we’ve got in the UK. What the UK has is the market of a unitary state, that is not a single market in anything like the same sense that the EU has a single market. One market is not the same as a single market.
This might seem like a nit-picking distinction, but it’s important. Crucially, whereas national markets within a real single market retain their own regulatory, taxation, and financial bodies to which fees and taxes must be paid or reported, the regulatory, tax, and financial framework under which the Scottish economy operates is almost in its entirety handled by the central government in Westminster. And this will be even more the case after Brexit when competencies currently held by Brussels will be held by Westminster.
What this boils down to is that when, say, Belgium reports that it exports X amount to the rest of the EU that there are Belgian tax authorities and economic bodies which are able to collate figures for the Belgian market with a considerable degree of accuracy. The Belgian government and the Belgian press can then discuss Belgium’s tax revenues and its exports to the rest of the EU and be fairly confident that the data they’re using is accurate and meaningful.
There are no comparable statistics for Scottish tax revenues, the figures which do exist are based on estimates because Scotland doesn’t have its own authorities to which such figures must be reported. The great majority of taxes in the UK are determined by the UK government and collected by UK agencies on a UK wide basis. There is absolutely no requirement for a company which operates across the entire UK to separate out its income and expenditure in Scotland when it comes to paying its taxes. Equally figures for Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK are based on rough estimates derived from voluntary surveys. In fact it’s really only accurate to speak of the UK economy in Scotland and not of “the Scottish economy”.
So it’s misleading to confidently assert that “Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the UK as it does to the EU” as some apologists for British nationalism do, because Scotland is not a country of origin in terms of the reporting of taxes and fees in the sense required of a member of a single market. The truth is we don’t really know with anything like the precision that the Belgian authorities know about their exports to other EU states. It’s like trying to compare the results of a straw poll taken from amongst your mates in the pub with the outcome of an actual election. You might come up with the correct result, but there is a huge margin of error and there’s no guarantee that your sample is representative. But really it’s nonsensical to speak about exports from one part of a unitary state to another part of the same unitary state. You’d be as well talking about what Glasgow exports to Paisley
Another crucial distinction is that the EU states decide collectively what the regulations governing the EU single market are going to be. In some aspects of the negotiations member states have a veto. No single EU state can impose its will unilaterally on the others. It is however nonsensical to assert that Scotland has a separate and meaningful input into decisions such as setting the rate of VAT throughout the UK, or the rate of corporation tax. These are decided by the UK central government. One nation in the UK can and does unilaterally impose its will on the other nations. That’s why Scotland is getting Brexit. Within the UK, we all get what England votes for.
The entire taxation system is in the control of the UK government, except for those aspects which Westminster has allowed to be devolved. Naturally the only tax powers which Westminster has allowed to be devolved to Holyrood are those which have the biggest direct impact on the income of ordinary working people. There’s no economic reason for that, only political reasons. After Brexit the UK government has made it very clear that decisions on regulations such as agricultural standards which are currently determined by EU regulations as part of the EU single market will be determined solely by the UK government.
The point here is that the different members of a single market each have input into how that single market is run and regulated, and although some of the countries which comprise the EU have much larger economies than others, in theory each country comprising the single market has an equal say in how it’s run. That ensures that no one country which is part of the single market can use the single market to benefit itself at the expense of other countries in the single market. That is at least the theory, although it doesn’t always work perfectly in practice. However it’s a very different philosophical underpinning to what happens in the UK’s unitary state market, where the entire economy is apparently run in the interests of the south east of England and London sucks up capital, labour and receives the lion’s share of investment.
If those who oppose Scottish independence want to oppose it on the grounds that taking Scotland out of the UK’s unitary market is a bad thing, they could make a reasonable argument for that which would at least be coherent and morally defensible. It is after all indisputable that Scotland has extremely strong economic links to the rest of the UK. However there is no moral defence for trying to pretend that there’s an exact equivalence between the real single market of the EU and the market of the unitary state of the UK. That’s just misinformation, pure and simple. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that they’re accusing Russia of.
So gonnae no dae that. Gonnae. Jist gonnae no.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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