Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A cast-iron mandate

Nicola Sturgeon today claims she has a cast-iron mandate for another Scottish Independence referendum.

That mandate presumably dates from the 2016 Holyrood election, when her government lost overall control and became dependent on The Greens for a majority.

Yes, I know The Greens favour independence, but I'm inclined to wonder whether their voters had it top of their agenda when marking their crosses on the ballot paper. Presumably, if it had been their priority, these voters could just as easily have voted SNP.

Needless to say her mandate does not date from the 2014 referendum, where the nationalists lost by a 10% margin. At that time they claimed referendums were a 'once in a generation' event. It now appears that referendums will only cease once the SNP wins one, or alternatively when they are no longer maintained in power by The Greens.

Looking at the catastrophic mismanagement that ten years of SNP rule has brought to Scotland's economy and basic public services, we can well understand the need for another bout of tribalist shroud-trailing to distract the electorate. Nicola Sturgeon's own popularity is at last begin to flag too.

On the other hand the SNP has still not come up with an alternative plan for a national currency. Surely they won't try and run the busted flush of sharing the pound sterling for a second time?

Moreover the oil price on which the last projected independence budget relied has halved and it is now reckoned that an independent Scotland would have a fiscal crisis worse than that of Greece.

In the Middle Ages it was traditional for the Scots to invade northern England whenever the English were distracted by a European war, but reviving this opportunistic policy during the Brexit negotiations is doubly inappropriate.

Firstly it prevents Scottish voters having a clear idea of what relationship with the EU would be the alternative to independence. It still seems probable that Spanish and Belgian vetoes would be deployed to prevent Scottish membership either as a new member or a rump continuing member, so Scots would be voting for a pig in a poke on both sides of the ballot.

Secondly it complicates the position for UK and EU Brexit negotiators, neither of whom could be clear whether the UK government was negotiating for the whole island.

The truth is that the uncertainty caused by the Damocles sword hanging over the Scottish economy will deter inward investment until the threat of another referendum is removed.

And, perish the thought, should the separatists ever gain their hearts' desire, the outrage they claim to feel over being dragged out of the EU against their will is likely to be as nothing compared to the outrage of half the Scottish population dragged out of the UK against their will.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Just Slaying A Couple of Dragons

1. By far the biggest threat to the Scottish economy is Brexit. (Source: the SNP, in resonse to virtually every economic bad news story for the last six months).

FALSE. The EU accounts for 15% of Scottish trade. The rest of the UK accounts for more than 60%. Even if Brexit resulted in the complete destruction of Scotland's EU trade, and there's no obvious reason why it should, it would do less than a quarter of the damage that Scotland leaving the UK Single Market would do.

Probably the biggest threat to the Scottish economy at the moment is the perpetual political uncertainty engendered by the SNP's determination to threaten a second independence referendum at any conceivable opportunity. Unlike the Scottish government, foreign investors can do sums. They know an independent Scotland would be a lot poorer and no-one really wants to invest in a shrinking economy.

AND if that weren't bad enough, Scotland is now the most heavily-taxed part of the UK. We have a lower level of income at which you start paying higher rate income tax, a higher level of big business rates and a higher tax on purchase of more expensive houses. Sure. Come and invest. Come and live in Scotland all you high-fliers. We guarantee you'll pay for it.

2. There are many possible forms of Brexit. The Government has no mandate to take the UK out of the EU Single Market / Customs Union / Euratom etc. etc. (Source: anyone who voted Remain who can't accept the result of the referendum and is still trying to keep the UK subject to one or more EU institutions.)

FALSE. The mandate was quite simple. LEAVE THE EUROPEAN UNION. In spite of which the determination to keep the UK subject to one or more EU institutions, and especially the European Court of Justice, continues undiminished.

Will the Remoaners please explain how the UK can cling on to vestiges of EU membership without being subject to the ECJ's power to arbitrate on all disputes?

Or how we could remain in the customs union and still negotiate independent trade deals with non-EU governments? 

No? Didn't think so.

There. That's those dragons dead. (I don't think).