Friday, 16 January 2015

Beware of Economic Gales

Winter gales are nothing new on Sliabh Mannan. On those parts of the moor where the soil is heavy clay, tree roots tend to spread along the surface rather than penetrate downwards. It is never a great surprise when I go out to walk my dog after a gale to find some woodland giant blown over intact, with its root system now forming a vertical wall at the windward end.

Having no great depth of root might be seen as a metaphor for the Scottish economy. We are heavily dependent upon a fairly restricted range of industries, notably oil and finance. When times are good for these industries they can be very good. Basking in the glow of high employment and government revenues from profits taxes, it is tempting for non-economists to be seduced by propaganda assuring them that Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world and could be a Utopian society if only we were independent.

Following the financial crash of 2008 we now see the oil price crash of 2014-15 and the announcement of redundancies in the oil industry. Nevertheless the Scottish government continues to demand a form of Devo-Max under which we should become dependent upon our own highly volatile taxation resources rather than insulated from economic gales by a continuation of the present UK funding arrangements.

It seems to me that members of the Scottish government would benefit from taking a trip out to Sliabh Mannan and learning the lesson of our fallen trees.