Jim Sillars: Voting No will tie us to doomed scenario

Margo MacDonald helped in the  campaign for a Scottish Assembly in February 1979
Margo MacDonald helped in the campaign for a Scottish Assembly in February 1979
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What will happen if Project Fear succeeds, and we vote No? It’s time some light was thrown on that scenario.

It makes for acute anxiety on two grounds. One, how real are the hints of more powers for the Scottish Parliament as a gift for staying in the UK?. Two, what is our future tied to a neighbour in serious economic decline, saddled with debt worse than the Greeks?

More devolution? Not likely if it is about transfer of real economic powers to Holyrood. Voting No means we stay part of a unitary state – where big economic powers must remain with the central government at Westminster. It cannot be otherwise. If Scotland gets real economic powers, it can only be at a cost to other regions, especially those close to Scotland.

Take the idea of control of corporation tax, letting us reduce it to 12.5 per cent while the rest of the UK sticks with 20 per cent (as it will be in 2015), thus giving us a great advantage in attracting new businesses and jobs. Or let us say that as well as powers over corporation tax we can reduce VAT, with its effect on the cost of living. How would you like to live in the north-east or north-west of England if that happened? Who would think of investing there if they could just skip over the Border to a much better business tax and VAT system? Geordieland would be completely uncompetitive, devastated, no chance of economic recovery. That is why more real devolution cannot happen. No English- dominated Parliament is going to vote for a Scottish policy that damages the north of England. And you cannot blame them.

There is a large group of north-east and north-west MPs. In 1979, when a Scottish Assembly was on the cards, they were adamant that it would not pass. I was there. I can remember them saying that if prime minister Jim Callaghan tried to pass the final measure to set up the assembly, they would vote it down, even if it was a vote of confidence. It will be no different this time. They already believe that our Parliament gives us too big an advantage over their regions.

So, be warned. A No vote will not deliver more powers. We will be stuck, not with Devomax, only what they will give us – and that will be minimal, window dressing.

But even more important, a No vote will keep us tied to a declining economic power, deep in debt. The present “recovery” is false, fuelled by more government borrowing – around £120 billion this year, an artificial house price bubble, and more and more people spending on credit cards – the very mad economics that caused the great crash of 2007-8. The “recovery” is meant to get Westminster parties over the 2015 election, then the deluge of real cuts will fall upon us.

Look at the clear small and big signs of steep UK decline. A small but significant pointer was the Queen’s Jubilee. At every previous one the big occasion was her reviewing the fleet. This time, she was on a wee boat in the Thames. The Royal Navy, in a bankrupt country, hasn’t enough ships to form a fleet. Look at Osborne in China, kow-towing to the Chinese asking them to buy up Britain, because there is no money here. UK national debt is heading for £1.4 trillion. Total UK public and private debt is five times what the total economy is worth. According to the Bank for International Settlements, UK debt is worse than that of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. A terrible reckoning beckons.

When some Scots believe it is best to stick with the UK, they are thinking about the UK that was: big economy, rich and a world power. That was, but is no more. The huge amount of debt will strangle economic recovery once the Westminster politicos get past the 2015 election. Then the cuts will come. It won’t be better together, it will be skint and poorer together. Scotland will become Wonga-land, and full of food banks.

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