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Agenda: We can't put a figure on how better off we will be under independence

LAST week the Edinburgh and London Governments made unprovable claims about how much better or worse off we would be with independence.

In a thoughtful editorial, The Herald asked: "How much further forward will the estimates take us in a debate that has already shown the extent to which figures can obscure as well as reveal?"

It was a fair question, especially since both sides also made a fundamental error in suggesting financial considerations will affect a political decision. In fact, it is the other way round.

The political decision we make in September will determine whether we will be better or worse off in future.

There is, however, one certainty: if we vote No, we face £25 billion of cuts after the Westminster election next year.

With the UK heading for £1.5 trillion of national debt by 2017, the cuts we will experience in public spending and benefits in the years ahead will be catastrophic.

That is one certainty the Better Together leaders do not want you to think about. A No vote delivers it.

But is it really possible to put a monetary figure on how much better off we will be with independence? The honest answer is no.

I am campaigning for independence because in a lifetime of studying economics, politics and power, I know that once we have control of our own resources Scotland can be a fairer and more prosperous place for working class people.

The key to that future lies in the policies we pursue as an independent nation.

Since Scots have not had their hands on the levers of economic power for more than 300 years, it is difficult to see how we can be blamed for our present economic plight. Our problems have been created from outside our borders. They can be solved only when we bring full economic and political power back inside our borders.

Last week's playground politics over the set-up costs of an independent government also left many people justifiably angry. Precision here is not possible nor necessary. Common sense is required.

As the same Herald editorial commented: "There can never be absolute certainty - there are inevitably many ifs, buts and maybes in the establishment of a new state."

Very true, but it is also true that of all the countries that have left the control of London, from the Irish Free State in the 1920s, India in 1947, and the Asian and African countries in the 1960s, Scotland is the best placed to start on our own.

At independence we will be entitled to a fair share of the value of hundreds of British embassies and consulates across the world, along with ambassadors' residences and consular facilities, not to mention our share of valuable defence infrastructure and many millions of pounds of other shared state assets that we have contributed to for centuries.

That significant bonanza, and the fact we will not have to contribute to these UK costs any more, will leave us very well placed to set up the remaining Government departments we need.

We have a well educated and skilled population, our universities are among the best in the world, we are a world class scientific centre, we have a well trained civil service and we have a balance of trade surplus. We are rich in energy, oil, gas, hydro and wind power - we have everything required for success.

No campaigners admit Scotland would be viable, but then go on to dismiss us at every turn. Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont took the insults to a new low when she claimed in a television debate in February: "We are not genetically programmed in Scotland to make political decisions." If true, that makes us, uniquely stupid. Never has a nation been so insulted by one of its own political leaders.

I hope this September Scots will decide we can make a fairer and better society than the one we live in now, where food banks, child poverty and insecurity is the daily price we pay for the Union.

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