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The historical debt 198

Posted on April 03, 2014 by

When presented with the evidence that Scotland has been a huge net contributor to UK finances ever since the discovery of North Sea oil, Unionists sometimes protest “Ah, but what about the 260 years before that, when Scotland was just a poor wee backwater with no industry that was bankrolled by England after the Darien disaster?”

(Because most of them don’t actually know the first thing about Darien.)


And after this morning’s story, we thought it might be worth checking a few more of the official UK government figures for Scottish revenues and expenditure, up to the point where the Treasury stopped compiling the figures lest they get too embarrassing.

So thanks to yet another alert reader, that’s what we did.

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The Portillo Moments 177

Posted on December 01, 2020 by

It wouldn’t be human not to take a brief pause to enjoy a victory.

But this is only one battle.

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Fair’s Fair: the Brexit case for indyref 2 154

Posted on September 20, 2020 by

As a right-of-centre English conservative, there are Scottish National Party concepts I haven’t so far been able to comprehend. Perhaps it’s because I don’t follow Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford. Should I keep an eye on what The Scotsman is saying?

SNP leaders talk in the same sentence of a “free” and “independent” Scotland having a future as a member of the EU. My grasp of those words is not theirs. Distinguished lawyers – be they Remainers, Leavers or Don’t-Care-Just-Pay-My-Billsers – all agree that a series of European Court of Justice decisions have established the unqualified supremacy of European Union laws – disguised as “Regulations and Directives” – over the national laws of EU states.

By 1970, the court ruled that Community law must take precedence even over the constitutional laws of member states — including basic laws guaranteeing fundamental rights, such as in Internationale Handelsgesellschaft mbH v Einfuhr- und Vorratsstelle für Getreide und Futtermittel.

I see this as vassalage, not independence.

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Out of the cave 223

Posted on November 24, 2016 by

Readers of this site will be well aware of the many failings and limitations of GERS, aka Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland – the document which serves as the informal accounts of a devolved Scotland but tells us next to nothing about the finances of an independent Scotland, as noted just a few weeks ago by the impartial multinational auditors Deloitte.


An article I produced this week for the Common Weal White Paper Project – Beyond GERS – has generated much critical response from Unionists, though some of it has at least been constructive.

Spurred on by the mention of the article by David Torrance in Monday’s Herald, in a column containing several serious inaccuracies, I’ve seen various misunderstandings and misconceptions about it which ought to be addressed.

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Junkies, tramps and thieves 343

Posted on September 02, 2016 by

Fear and lies work. Over many decades (and really for centuries) the Unionist parties and the media have succeeded in persuading a large percentage of Scots that they’re beggars, scroungers, vagrants and “subsidy junkies” dependent on the ever-generous charity of England to keep them from starvation.


And in terms of the facts, that hasn’t always been an easy sell.

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An empty quiver 201

Posted on July 29, 2016 by

This week I published, through Common Weal, a discussion paper on the potential currency options for an independent Scotland in light of the material changes in circumstances caused by the Brexit vote.

This paper examines some of the options open to an independent Scotland and concludes that, on balance, the best option for Scotland would be a Scottish currency, initially pegged to Sterling but with the infrastructure and mechanisms in place to move, replace or remove that peg if and when it proves advantageous.

(As the UK did itself in the 1980’s when the pound was pegged first to the US dollar and then to the Deutschmark.)

One of the requirements of an independent currency is that Scotland would need its own foreign reserve fund which would act as a buffer against trade imbalances and would be used to counter movements in exchange rate (particularly if we were pegged our exchange rate to Sterling).


It was on this particular point that yesterday’s Scottish edition of the Daily Express chose to focus, in its characteristically measured, balanced and thoughtful manner.

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Gazing into the black hole 93

Posted on March 09, 2016 by

Economics: The art of explaining why all of your models fail to accurately predict either the future or the past.

It’s the time of year again when everyone glances at the first page of a dense booklet of complex economic data and immediately starts using it to make wild forecasts and proclamations despite the long-known problems with doing so.


So it’s also, once again, time to try looking a little further to tease out some details that others might have – let’s be generous here – accidentally missed.

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We are four 236

Posted on November 07, 2015 by

So, it’s our birthday. It was exactly four years ago today, on the 7th of November 2011, that Wings Over Scotland published the first post of what was supposed to be a pretty insignificant spare-time blog picking out interesting politics stories in the day’s Scottish media and challenging any inaccuracies in them.


It got a bit out of control, frankly.

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The wishful believers 417

Posted on October 28, 2015 by

As we observed last night, the BBC’s Andrew Neil has reacted with rather poor grace to his chiding at the hands of respected statisticians Jim and Margaret Cuthbert. Neil embarked on a Twitter blocking spree and tried to rewrite history, claiming that he’d “simply offered” the blunt claim that there had been no cuts to the Scottish budget in the last five years “as one measure” of the money available to Holyrood.

The problem for Neil is that we recorded video of his Sunday interview with the SNP’s Angus Robertson, and anyone can see for themselves that Neil made an unequivocal assertion with no suggestion whatsoever that there were any alternative measures.


“In real terms there’s been – no – cut”, said Neil, spitting out the last three words with dramatic pauses between them for emphasis, in a statement whose stark absence of ambiguity unfortunately left him no wiggle room when the Cuthberts politely but firmly pointed out that it was “ridiculous” to argue that there hadn’t been any cuts, and that the budget “clearly has gone down”.

But Neil’s embarrassment is illustrative of a much wider delusion.

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The enemy within 228

Posted on March 10, 2015 by

The Steve Bell cartoon in yesterday’s Guardian caused a fairly predictable reaction. SNP supporters and Yes voters were offended, some Guardian journalists drew ludicrous defensive comparisons citing Charlie Hebdo – as if people had called for Bell to be beheaded, rather than just expressed the opinion that the cartoon was nasty and racist – and lovers of comedy went off scratching their heads after fruitless attempts to understand what the joke was supposed to be.

(“It’s a quote!”, shouted quite a few people, naming about a dozen different historical figures as the alleged source of a line about trying everything once, but none of them offering anything by way of explanation on how that was connected to any comment or policy of Nicola Sturgeon’s or the SNP’s.)

Anyone naively thinking that the publication of the cartoon was just an unfortunate lapse or oversight will have been disappointed by today’s paper, which carries another painfully unfunny and incomprehensible Nat-bashing effort from Bell, although this time the offence is limited to the portrayal of Sturgeon and Alex Salmond as a pair of stereotypical kilt-wearing Jocks.


(The caption explains the strip as being purportedly about “Salmond and Sturgeon’s Highland fling”, but we haven’t a clue what that’s supposed to mean. We’re not aware of them having visited the Highlands recently and we can’t think of any characteristic of full fiscal autonomy that resembles a traditional dance.)

Unionists, meanwhile, indignantly pointed out to some complainants that attacking the SNP isn’t the same thing as attacking Scots as a whole. But as media hysteria about the apparently-unconscionable prospect of Scottish MPs influencing a UK government reaches fever pitch, that distinction is getting less and less meaninfgul.

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How numbers work 105

Posted on February 12, 2015 by

The very few readers who don’t immediately just snort and turn the page when they see the words “George Foulkes” may have noticed in yesterday’s Herald that the thirsty peer could be found gloating gleefully that had Scotland voted for independence last September it would now be “bankrupt” due to the decline in oil prices.


We can’t be bothered pointing out for the 500th time that a Yes vote wouldn’t have seen Scotland actually independent until March 2016, and that the oil price NOW is therefore about as relevant to anything as, well, Baron Foulkes himself.

But we couldn’t help noticing a couple of small arithmetical details.

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Victory’s missing fathers 134

Posted on November 05, 2014 by

Disappointingly, we haven’t received a reply from Daily Record editor Murray Foote to our email yesterday inquiring into the provenance of “The Vow”.


However, an alert reader who wrote to him yesterday did. You can read it below.

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