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Out of the quagmire 887

Posted on January 14, 2019 by

UK politics is stuck fast in the mud, going nowhere, and the casualties are mounting. Whether on Brexit, independence or anything else, we’ve all become so dug-in to our positions that some people – naming no names – have forgotten where the battle lines are or what their political war was even about in the first place.

For 30 months now, the Yes movement has been trying to answer the question of how to get a second indyref. The SNP has a triple-locked democratic mandate based on Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the will of its people, but as strong a moral argument as that is it unfortunately runs straight into a brick wall of reality: the constitution is reserved to Westminster.

Equally we’re consumed by the ongoing Brexit trainwreck, which has no apparent escape route from a poisonous stalemate paralysing the UK’s politicians and leaving nobody in control as the country heads for some very hard buffers.

As the self-imposed Brexit deadline looms, Theresa May is running out of options. Her deal is a dead duck. When it inevitably fails, there are two possible scenarios: a second EU referendum of some sort (nobody can agree what the options would be), or a general election.

Neither the Tories nor Labour want another referendum because both parties want Brexit to happen, so another election is the more likely. But all the polls suggest it would deliver much the same hung parliament as we have now, solving nothing.

Last week, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC gave a speech to a diverse pro-Europe group that includes former Green leader Caroline Lucas, pro-indy commentator Lesley Riddoch and Tory MP Dominic Grieve. And as she waxed lyrical, with a twinkle in her eye Cherry slipped in reference to a hitherto-undiscussed plan that offers an escape route for everyone.

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The Too Wee Factor 654

Posted on August 23, 2017 by

This morning sees the release of another set of GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures accompanied, no doubt, by the usual strange hybrid of sneering and cringing from Unionist politicians braying proudly that we’re too small, too subsidised and too stupid to ever look after our own country.

So as the annual circus act gets under way again, for a little perspective we took a quick look at Scotland’s actual standing in the international community.

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The conjurer’s assistants 155

Posted on November 26, 2015 by

Yesterday George Osborne treated us to an Autumn Statement in which he performed one of the most remarkable political U-turns in living memory.

The apparent need to cut £12bn from the welfare budget has long been sign-posted by the Tories as a requirement to getting us “back in the black” and on the road to a “higher wage, lower welfare, lower tax” society as part of their oft-cited “long-term economic plan”. (Or what academic economists prefer to call a risky experiment with the economy in order to score political points.)

Alert readers will recall David Cameron saying before the general election that child tax credits wouldn’t be cut in pursuit of that goal. But after the election, Osborne decided that they would. The Institute for Fiscal Studies determined that these cuts would have the worst effects on some of the poorest families in Britain.


Despite widespread opposition to the cuts, Labour infamously abstained on the critical vote in the Commons. Then, when the welfare bill reached the Lords, Labour once again abstained on a Lib Dem motion that would have completely killed the bill, in favour of a Labour one which phased in the cuts over three years, but meant Osborne would have to find another £4.5bn in his budget.

The passing of the Labour motion enraged Cameron so much that he went on an extraordinary rant about a “constitutional crisis” and announced a “rapid review”.

So we were somewhat surprised to hear Osborne say yesterday that the best thing to do was “not to phase these changes in, but to avoid them altogether”.

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Fighting in the War Room 228

Posted on November 09, 2015 by

Last Friday’s article on the limitations of GERS caused quite a stir among the stout defenders of the Union, as social-media users may have noticed over the weekend.

Amidst the wildly-flailing fury-storm of shouty, abusive responses which pathologically evaded addressing the article’s point, the one vaguely factual argument raised was the notion that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to make significant savings on its current (notional) £3bn defence budget because NATO supposedly requires all member states to spend 2% of their GDP on defence.


So we thought we’d see if it was true.

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The limitations of GERS 297

Posted on November 06, 2015 by

Last week the BBC treated viewers to a Question Time hosted in Edinburgh, where a right-wing economics journalist from MoneyWeek magazine called Merryn Somerset Webb explained to a somewhat disgruntled Scottish audience why the government were right to bail out the bankers, but not steel workers.

It capped off an interesting week but to see why we’ll have to rewind a few days and revisit the work of an amateur Unionist blogger of our unwelcome acquaintance.


The amateur blogger in question has been garnering a fair amount of attention lately from straw-clutching Unionist hacks for his “analysis” of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures, in which he purports to show a sizeable deficit in the economy of an independent or “full fiscal autonomy” Scotland.

In essence, the analysis amounts to dumping all the GERS summary tables into a Microsoft Excel graph, adding the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast for oil revenue, and pointing to a resulting £9.1bn gap between Scotland’s public spending and its total revenue.

This, he asserts, is in addition to Scotland’s share of the hefty deficit the UK currently runs. His conclusion, shouted loudly and often by every angry Unionist on Twitter, is that the government of an independent Scotland – which tellingly they always assume to be an SNP one – would either have to drastically cut public services or raise taxes to fill this “black hole”.

It’s an interesting piece of analysis. Or it would be, if it wasn’t total nonsense.

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