Economic Case for an Independent Scotland: a not entirely convincing case made for going alone

Ivan McKee / Business for Scotland,Economic Case for an Independent Scotland (Part 2)” (The Glad Cafe, Shawlands, Glasgow, 26th Nov 2013)

In the run-up to the September 2014 independence referendum, Scottish Independence Live Events has organised a number of talks, presentations and other live events to present the case for an independent Scotland. Some of these events have been co-ordinated with Business for Scotland and Ivan McKee of that latter organisation has been giving a series of talks on why and how Scotland can benefit from splitting from the United Kingdom. The presentations take the form of PowerPoint show-and-tell presentations with McKee talking about the information flashed up on a large screen.

The talk is very dry and consists of McKee running through various comparative statistics that put Scotland in quite a good light compared to the UK as a whole. No wonder the audience seems very quiet: half the people there must have been bamboozled by the figures presented and the other half might have been in the various stages of sleep! The talk seems well organised enough though for a talk that takes slightly over 35 minutes there is no attempt to categorise parts of the talk into sections about Scotland’s economy, its balance of payments and accounts, its exports and imports, and its financial position. Indeed, McKee concentrates mostly on Scotland’s financial position vis-a-vis that of the United Kingdom and the figures invariably look better for Scotland where its contributions to the UK economy are concerned, and worse where its share of the national wealth on various criteria is the focus. McKee paints a picture of statistics showing that Scotland, if its economy were teased apart from that of the UK, is more productive on a per capita basis and contributes more per person to the overall British economy, yet does not receive what it should from London based on its contributions to the national economy. To take one example, the country contributes over £3 billion in defence yet only £1.9 billion is actually spent in Scotland for defence.

I did get the impression that many if not most statistics quoted were cherry-picked to portray a post-independence Scotland in a better position than it would otherwise be in were people to vote “No” in the September referendum. Curiously McKee did not mention what Scotland contributes to the British economy apart from North Sea oil; since the oil makes up 15% of Scottish exports, the Scots would rightly expect McKee to highlight other major and minor exports and say something about the prospects of their future earnings were Scotland to bolt from the union. As oil is a finite resource and North Sea oil production especially surpassed its peak production limit some time ago, one would think McKee would say something about how an independent Scotland would restructure its economy away from dependence on the British economy overall and from finite energy commodities.

Most people in the audience were representative of the general public and one surmises that jobs and employment post-independence would be uppermost in their minds. McKee has nothing to say about how independence will affect companies’ willingness to invest in Scotland and create work that will employ Scottish people. There is nothing mentioned either about how enmeshed Scotland is with the rest of the British economy and whether non-Scottish British firms would be willing to continue investing in Scotland after the country pulls out of the union.

Another significant issue must surely be the currency, whether Scotland would be allowed to continue using the British pound as its currency unit and what consequences the Scots would suffer from London if they did so. Even if the Cameron government promised the Scots that it would not use the pound to wreck the Scottish economy, the financial sector in the UK, based as it is in the City of London whose founding pre-dates the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians in the British Isles 1,500 years ago, tends to act like a law unto itself and could use its power to weaken and ruin the Scottish economy by starving it of funding for necessary infrastructure projects with the connivance of Whitehall.

Nevertheless McKee’s talk certainly provides plenty of food for thought and further discussion.





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