Brian Monteith: I've got your reading list covered Nicola

I do hope the First Minister's readership challenge results in more young people reading books.

Friday, 26th August 2016, 12:38 pm
Updated Friday, 26th August 2016, 1:44 pm
Nicola Sturgeon. Picture; Neil Hanna

I’m quite happy to believe it’s not some PR stunt dreamt up to make it look like she cares deeply about the problems in Scottish education, and especially the falling literacy rates.

So I’ll enter into the spirit of the occasion, for I too care, I care that our First Minister has been reading all the wrong books. I’d like to give Nicola a challenge of her own with a list of five books she could read that would help her be a better First Minister.

A must read for her is Bluff Your Way in Economics by Stuart Trow, for it is obvious that Nicola does not have a thorough grasp of the dismal science. If she cannot understand her Laffer or Phillips curves or the law of supply and demand then after reading this book she will al least be able to give the pretense of understanding the Scottish economy.

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This is very important for only this week Nicola was telling us that she would not make public spending cuts or raise taxes to eradicate her government’s deficit of £14.8 billion – instead she would borrow the money on the international markets to do this. Unfortunately she failed to understand that if Scotland were independent the deficit would be made up entirely of borrowed money – as the UK would not be providing the funds.

You can’t borrow more to cover the borrowing. That’s like taking out an overdraft in one bank to pay off your overdraft in another. You still have an overdraft.

Having consumed the bluffer’s guide she could then read one of her own publications, Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2015/16, which lays out in detail the amount of money raised and spent by the Scottish and UK governments north of the Border. Produced by her own statisticians this is where the £14.8bn deficit comes from – but there’s much, much more.

In fact so scary is it for Nicola that she should not read it at night before going to bed – for nationalists it is the stuff of nightmares. It shows that two years after the independence referendum, by which time Alex Salmond said we would be outside the UK, Scotland would be on its uppers. Bankrupt. Bust.

Scotland’s annual deficit – what we need the UK Treasury in London to finance – would be 9.5 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product – the largest in the developed world. Bigger than that of Greece at 7.5 per cent and twice that of the UK’s at over four per cent. Some like to rubbish the GERS statistics, but it was only two years ago that Alex Salmond was telling us how the GERS figures were so reliable he based his whole case for independence on them.

Nicola needs to read her own report, cover to cover, and take in the simple fact that tax revenues are falling while public spending is rising – and she has the ability to reverse that by changing her spendthrift ways.

Nicila’s troubles are not just with economics. The fourth book, No regrets Parenting by Harley Robart would explain good parenting methods and why her state guardian idea is not necessary and not needed. It’s all about turning long days and short years into cherished moments, rather than having the nanny state directing our charges.

After all that educational material she could cheer herself up with a Famous Five book. No, not the daring exploits of the Hibs forward line of the 50s but Enid Blyton’s story of the idyllic adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy, her dog.

Nicola cites the first of the series, Five on a Treasure Island, as her favourite childhood book, so I suggest Five Have a Mystery to Solve as it might give her inspiration to find a credible economic case for independence. Or maybe how to solve the problems she’s been neglecting in our schools, hospitals and roads. If Nicola stayed in Scotland long enough for her day job she maybe wouldn’t have so many problems. She can read it on her next flight to a European capital

To finish I suggest one of my own favourites, The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian émigré who came to London before the war. He wrote this book as a call for small government in answer to the demands of fascists and communists for greater government control. In it he explains how government central planning leads to failure and fuels demands for more government. Obviously Nicola has never read it, but if she did . . .