By Russell Bruce
Much furore has been generated by the latest edition of The Economist with its ‘Skintland’ map of Scotland as a front cover cartoon. A series of articles inside are devoted to ‘The Economist’s view of Scotland’.
I find myself surprisingly relaxed by this representation of my country for it will do nothing to present a positive view of Unionism and any sense that we are ‘stronger together’ is blown out of the water.
The social and economic divisions between Scotland and England increase by the day, week and month. England is now a very different country with very different values from Scotland.
England is drifting away from us at a time when Scotland is finding success and confidence in difficult times. I have read few editorials of such poor analysis as that in this week’s edition of The Economist.
The feature is an extraordinary selection of articles put together with as much insight as a blind man stuck on a traffic island. I make no reference to those physically blind. There are none so blind as the sighted that cannot see.
But I will praise the Economist for producing an interesting diagram of the growth in Gross Value Added per capita for the Nations and Regions of the UK. None of the anonymous articles in the magazine’s Scottish Independence feature bore any relation to this useful diagram produced by someone in the Economist’s back office.
Headed The ‘flying Scots’ it paints a very different picture and demonstrates under the restrictions of devolution Scotland has grown GVA per capita by 4.5% between 2000 and 2010. It is widely understood that Scotland is the third most prosperous of the nations and regions of the UK.
What The Economist diagram shows is that we are narrowing the gap. The South East of England economy only grew by 0.3% whereas Scotland’s GVA per capital grew by 4.5% in the first decade of the 21st century.
The source of the data is the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Worrying for most of the regions of England is the actual decline of GVA per capita in these ten years. The West Midlands lost most at -6.5% and Yorkshire and Humberside recorded -5%.
The growth on London’s GVA per capita (11.3%) requires closer examination. Serious analysis is long overdue on how that is accounted for. There are two London’s in more than one sense. The present UK is a highly centralised economy with London sucking wealth from other parts of England and Wales.
The London region can be broken down into the City of London and the rest. The economic performance of the two parts of the London region is very different.
Just how much of what accrues to the city of London in the Treasury take is attributable elsewhere? It is not just those of us in Scotland that would like the answer to that question but many of the English regions contributing to one of the most unequal cities in the World deserve some answers too.
The Economist front cover is crass, objectionable, mean spirited and arguably racist but I have decided I like it, because it, and the coverage generated, will push up the Independence vote.
Nothing motivates the Scots more than when the London elite decide to be stupid. Sad really because this London centric nonsense diminishes English intelligence and undermines England’s ability to see themselves as others see them.
That might be a salutary experience, but a necessary one if long in the coming.