The Institute for Fiscal Studies is seen by both sides in the referendum debate as a pretty reliable outfit. This is due to the think-tank telling it like it is. And that’s the last thing an independent Scotland is likely to be.
The whole reason for doing it for ourselves is so that we can do it in our own way, and that’s most unlikely to be as it is.
That’s one of the most difficult concepts for supporters of independence to articulate to people who haven’t thought much about what Scotland would be like if we ran our own show. Most people haven’t because it did not become a possibility until relatively recently. Also, they’ve been conditioned to see it as just another political party policy, like health or education. During a recession, people are concerned more with the economy, the cost of living, and their job than an idea of something that might happen after the present difficulties are resolved. The SNP and the other supporters of independence did not explain that independence is not a policy, it is the delivery mechanism for policies. Nor is independence likely to feature UK policies cut small.
That is why it is comparing apples and oranges to compare Scotland’s present patterns of tax and spend with the imperatives, opportunities and challenges that will be ours to exploit when we are independent.
For example, the institute report claim that taxes would be higher in an independent Scotland given the size and age of our population, and the falling value of oil. So that could mean that we work and plan for more returns on our other energy sources.
OK, if nothing changed because we had become independent that would justify the higher taxes bit. But there’s likely to be a surge of energy and an explosion of creative risk-taking. Employment will expand and there will be a bigger tax base.
Also, the institute says, oil prices will fall. And so they might. But they’ll go back up again, and even if they do not, the £200 billion that could be extracted from the so-called “mature” North Sea, referred to last week by Sir Ian Wood, would make up the gap . . . if there were one.
As for our wee, old population, Scotland will be the hot place to be, just as the Baltic republics have been since they became independent. Young people flocked to test the opportunities to do new things or to do things differently. I spoke to a young man who was part of Croatia’s young generation. He told me that everyone was excited and motivated to try new ideas after independence. Everyone was an entrepreneur. The economy grew faster than anyone would have thought beforehand.
So what does this tell us about Scotland? Everyone agrees that we have everything needed to be independent. Opponents of independence say we would be better off with Westminster. But where is the surge of enthusiasm that leads the way to economic growth if we stay as we are? Something I suspect was not factored into the equation by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. What if the Scots are the only people in the world to refuse the freedom to be all we can be in our own country?
I hope Scots vote with their heads. That we mean to be the best we can be . . . and it will be in ways that the institute couldn’t possibly guess at this stage.
Misunderstanding on my part
Following the very successful launch of my assisted suicide bill last week, I must apologise to the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland for having taken their name in vain. I told the press conference that the GPs had done the same as other professional bodies and decided against taking up an official policy position on assisted deaths.
My reason for doing so was the inclusion of a report from the committee that surveyed the doctors: “RCGP in Scotland cannot offer a clear statement on the issue of assisted suicide as responses received directly from members are polarised, with equally strong views submitted both in support and against the concepts addressed within the bill.”
I very much regret my misunderstanding and hope that this apology is accepted.
Round up the payday sharks
Much as I’m glad to see a promise of Government action on banning the showing of TV ads for payday loans companies on children’s TV, I’m a bit disgusted it’s taken this time for ministers to take an interest. At the last election I promised Lothian people that somehow I’d get these payday cowboys banned from riding roughshod over their responsibility to lend only to those most likely to repay their loan.
Another couple of the Lothian MSPs joined me and we linked up with Stella Creasey MP. David Cameron himself has now jumped aboard our bandwagon. Action at last.