The one great pillar of the argument against Scottish independence – greater than not being allowed into the EU, greater than being forced to barter with beads and potatoes because we wouldn’t have a currency, greater than losing Doctor Who or having the Chinese take their pandas back – is the economy.
Scotland is far too wee and too poor to be independent, they say – while indignantly denying that they’re saying it – because we only survive now thanks to a vast bailout every year from the rest of the UK, by which they in fact mean England. (Because it’s sure as heck not coming from Wales or Northern Ireland, which by any measure you care to choose are far poorer than Scotland.)
The name and size of this bailout vary wildly. Sometimes it’s a “deficit”, sometimes it’s a “black hole”, sometimes it’s a “fiscal transfer”, and it can be £8bn, £9bn, £10bn, £15bn, £28bn, £32bn or any other figure up to a hundred and eleventy thousand million bajillion squillion depending on who you’re talking to.
(The last one’s probably either David Coburn or Jackie Baillie.)
And while there are a dozen separate and compelling reasons why that argument is complete rubbish, none of them have any traction with diehard Unionists determined to believe that one of the richest and most blessed nations on Earth couldn’t possibly manage its own affairs like, say, Latvia or Ireland or Kuwait or Slovakia can.
But it turns out there IS a – surprisingly simple – way to get Unionists to categorically deny that England subsidises Scotland. You just have to ask them.