Scottish Labour’s House of Cards

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    Bryan Samuel
    Kilmarnock

    It is often said that accounting is an art not a science. This is mainly derived from that fact that the result of any financial transaction fundamentally depend on assumptions used to record it. Quite legitimately, two different sets of accounting conventions may well result in a completely different answer.

    Bryan Samuel
    Kilmarnock

    It is often said that accounting is an art not a science. This is mainly derived from that fact that the result of any financial transaction fundamentally depend on assumptions used to record it. Quite legitimately, two different sets of accounting conventions may well result in a completely different answer.

    The executive summary of the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report declares that in 2008-09 Scotland showed a “a surplus of £1.3 billion (0.9 per cent of GDP)” if a “geographical share of North Sea revenue” is included in the calculation (GERS 2010, p28).

    Unsurprisingly John Swinney, the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary, declares that the “figures reinforce the case for Scotland determining its own tax and spending decisions”.

    Equally predictably Andy Kerr, Labour’s finance spokesman, “accused ministers of skewing…figures” that “show that a separate Scotland would be dangerously dependent on volatile oil prices” (BBC 2010a).

    The really interesting thing here is not the argument of whether Scotland a viable economic entity or not, it can be legitimately argued either way, as it can be for the UK as a whole or the Euro-zone or indeed the entire global economy; but rather the strategic implications of Labour’s seemingly unfaltering desire to see Scotland’s glass as half empty.

    This can be characterised by Jim Murphy’s own “arc of insolvency” jibe that eagerly used the financial crisis as evidence of Scotland’s economic frailty (BBC News, 2010b).

    The logic of Labour’s pro-Union argument and with it any hope it has of graining back its place on Westminster’s government benches, rests not on a list of positive benefits but on their hypothesis that Scotland’s economy is too small and narrowly focused for it to prosper independently. In other words, if Scotland can be shown to be weak, the strength of Labour’s argument is strong.

    The questions therefore that the Scottish electorate must ask itself is:

    • Why would you vote to give a political party economic power over you if that organisation benefits directly from your lack of confidence and economic weakness?
    • Do you really think that given power, such an organisation would seek to strengthen and diversify your long-term economic prospects?

    The question that those in favour of full fiscal autonomy must answer is:

    • Why aren’t you shouting this, as loudly as possible, from the roof-tops?

    References

    BBC NEWS (2010a) Scotland showing £1.3bn surplus say Holyrood ministers http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/10389974.stm Published: 23rd June 2010

    BBC NEWS (2010b) Scottish political party chiefs clash in Sky TV debate http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/scotland/8642678.stm Published: 25th April 2010

    GERS (June 2010) Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland 2008-2009 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/315852/0100452.pdf{jcomments on}