Having spent the last few months pleading poverty and pitiful-underdog status, “Better Together” this week appeared to have suddenly remembered that £500,000 cheque it got ages ago from Tory oil tycoon (and friend of genocidal war criminals everywhere) Ian Taylor, and started spending some of it.
12-page colour inserts in newspapers like the Daily Record and Guardian don’t come cheap, and hundreds of thousands of Scots found themselves looking at a small booklet which didn’t identify its source until the very last page, and could have been taken by the unwary to have been a production by the newspapers themselves.
(Especially given the little pale blue “sticker” on the front using what looks very much like the Guardian’s own typeface).
But that was the least of the dishonesty in “The Facts You Need”.
We’ll get through this as quickly as we can, but even the covers need a quick debunking. As well as the laughable assertion on the front that the document contains “facts”, the back claims the referendum decision is between an idyllic future and a dystopian nightmare.
But there’s NO justification offered whatsoever for saying independence would mean “bigger cuts” or “fewer jobs”. The reverse is likely to be true. Independence will bring an immediate saving of £1bn a year to the Scottish budget, and Scottish versions of numerous UK departments like HMRC and the DWP would obviously need to be created, instantly generating many thousands of jobs in the public sector.
Even the Financial Times acknowledges that “an independent Scotland could expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK”, so why would there need to be more cuts when we’re both richer and spending less anyway?
“All the information in this document comes from impartial experts, economists and employers. “
A barefaced lie. Very few sources are actually cited, and almost all of the ones that are are UK government bodies like the Scotland Office, ONS and OBR. Where there are quotes, they’re highly selective and/or wildly out of context.
But we’ll get to those as we go along.
The left-hand page comprises empty speculation and innuendo. Nobody has a clue what the mortgage rate in either an independent Scotland or a Scotland within the UK will be in six months, never mind any further into the future. The Bank of England is widely expected to increase interest rates soon:
(There’s also no inherent reason that domestic interest rates in Scotland should increase, even if the Scottish Government itself were to have higher borrowing costs. People don’t take out their mortgages with the government, and Scotland’s state finances have no impact on an individual family’s ability to pay.)
As for groceries, prices are already different in different parts of the country. Indeed, they’re often different even at different branches of the same supermarket chain in the same city. (Have you ever shopped in a Tesco Extra and then in a Tesco Metro a mile away?) And they’re a little higher in Ireland because Ireland is ACROSS A SEA, which most of Scotland isn’t.
It won’t get any more expensive to ship things to Dundee in an independent Scotland than it is to ship things to Dundee now. Dundee will still be in the same place. And grocery retailing is an incredibly competitive business – any chain which was seen to discriminate against Scotland would be severely punished by customers.
As for the right-hand page, the UK government’s own pensions minister Steve Webb publicly destroyed the scare stories just days ago. Anyone entitled to a UK state pension receives it regardless of whether they live in the UK or not, a fact which had in any event already been made clear by the DWP back in January 2013.
Meanwhile, the graph on the pensions page is a particularly farcical piece of sheer fantasy in all manner of ways – nobody has ever been able to accurately predict oil revenues or population demographics 12 months ahead, let alone 20 years.
And why are the two completely unrelated things plotted against each other in the first place? And why does one of them start on a zero axis and the other one two-thirds of the way up? That’s a rhetorical question, of course.
We’ve done this one already. Phew, that’s a time-saver.
These two pages contain the most densely-packed lies in the booklet.
“Experts agree that going it alone would put our schools and hospitals at risk.”
None of these “experts” are named or quoted.
The “public spending” line has been endlessly shot to pieces. Spending per head in Scotland is indeed around £1200 higher in Scotland, but tax receipts are around £1700 higher, so we already pay for every penny of “extra” spending plus £500 each on top that goes straight into Westminster’s coffers.
“Impartial research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that leaving the UK would mean huge cuts to vital public services, tax rises or a combination of the two.”
The IFS figures are based, illogically, on an independent Scotland having the exact same spending plans as it does within the UK now (so what would be the point of being independent?) and therefore totally ignore the £1bn+ saving every year that could be made solely on defence and not paying for HS2 for the next two decades. They’re completely meaningless in the context of Scotland actually having its own government.
Oh, and what does that same Institute for Fiscal Studies say will come to Scotland if it stays in the UK? That’s right – huge cuts to vital public services.
Ironically, the fall in 2012-13 oil revenues was a result of companies investing record amounts of money into future production, which they were able to offset against profits. Why did they make record levels of investment? Because they think there’s an awful lot of money to be made from Scottish oil for decades to come.
And that’s only in the North Sea. Independence would free up the Clyde Basin off the west coast – currently off limits due to Trident submarines – for exploration, potentially producing many more billions of pounds in tax receipts.
Declassified UK Government papers from the 1980s show for the first time how the Ministry of Defence was prepared to ‘pull out all the stops’ to prevent any North Sea-style bonanza in the Firth of Clyde.
Ministers at the time said oil firms were ‘expecting something exploitable’ following a series of geological surveys of the area. But MoD bosses objected to energy giant BP installing drilling rigs in the seas just south of Arran because of fears it would interfere with a vital training and exercise area for nuclear submarines.”
Even if finance companies moved their registered addresses after independence – and there are no reasons to believe they would – the chances of them moving the actual jobs are extremely remote. The address of a company’s nameplate doesn’t affect its business, and relocating offices with thousands of employees would be a huge and totally unnecessary expense.
BAE Systems, the only remaining military shipbuilder in the UK, has already said that its Clyde shipyards are the only places it can build the Royal Navy’s new frigates. The Navy has admitted that the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers can ONLY be completed at Rosyth, even if Scotland becomes independent. Every piece of No-camp scaremongering about shipbuilding has been proven to be a lie.
Of course, the Union hasn’t proven much of a safeguard anyway. No less a figure than Gordon Brown helpfully pointed out earlier this year that Rosyth used to employ 15,000 workers in its shipbuilding industry. Under the security and protection of the UK that number has plummeted by 93%, to just 1000.
And we’ve already done the “research funding” thing too.
Last one, thank goodness. The graph on the left-hand page is hilarious. It points out that Scotland has a far lower GDP than the UK, curiously neglecting to point out that that’s because the UK is 12 times Scotland’s size. Multiply the Scottish figure by 12 (well, actually by 11.905) for a per-capita-equivalent comparison and it’s actually 2.57 trillion dollars, compared to the UK figure of 2.48 trillion.
In other words, an independent Scotland would be richer per head, even according to the UK government’s own quoted figures, than it would be as part of the UK. Whoops.
Finally, the currency and bank bailout scare stories get yet another tired airing, despite the fact that even No voters don’t believe them. And the fact that even UK government ministers have said that “of course there will be a currency union”. And the fact that we were told just a couple of pages earlier that all the banks would leave. And the fact that that’s not how bank bailouts actually work anyway.
And that’s that. We couldn’t help noticing, incidentally, that there isn’t a word about Europe or the EU in the entire document (except for a single passing mention of the size of Scottish exports on page 5). That could be because Labour MEP David Martin last week revealed that the No campaign’s scare stories about Schengen and being forced to join the Euro were rubbish:
Or it might be that “Better Together” are simply pandering to the anti-European UKIP agenda dominating UK politics, or perhaps conversely that they realise the absurd hypocrisy of warning that Scotland might not be admitted to the EU even as the UK pushes ever-closer to leaving it. We just don’t know, and we suspect they don’t either.
What we CAN say for certain is that they’ve just blown a lot of money telling Scots an absolute tissue of lies – not just in our opinion but which can be comprehensively proven as such, often by using the UK government’s own figures.
We think Scots deserve better than that. We’re working on it.