Another report misrepresented by the Telegraph as anti-independence
Another day and another manufactured Simon Johnson article in the Telegraph regarding the perils of Scottish self-determination.
Just like the article we debunked last week, it is hard to imagine a supposedly sensible publication printing anything less weakly related to the source of the claim. You would think even the most ardent unionist would realise they were being duped, but then I read the comments online and a little part of me dies.
Scottish independence ‘greater threat to financial services industry than Brexit’
Like his debunked article from last week, alarms bells should be ringing by the fact Simon Johnson bases his article on an academic report but does not produce a link to the report.
If anyone is interested here is the omitted link to the source of the article.
For the life of me I can’t tell where the ‘greater threat to financial services industry than Brexit’ quote in the headline comes from. It is not in the report and it is not even an exact quotation from the pretendy outraged Tory politician the article quotes. If anyone can work it out then stick a comment below. For the moment, lets just presume Simon Johnson is quoting his imaginary friend.
The source report has an abstract. I have highlighted the pertinent bits for the hard of thinking and Telegraph journalists:
This paper explores the potential impact of BREXIT on the Scottish financial services sector. For the purpose of this discussion the assumption is that Scotland remains part of the UK. At present there is clarity neither as to what BREXIT will mean for the UK nor how this will play out for the UK financial sector. There is also a good deal of uncertainty regarding Scotland’s future constitutional arrangements with regard to relationships both with the UK and with the EU. Given the extent of these uncertainties, we decided to omit reference to the possibility of a second independence referendum and what that might mean for the sector. That could be another topic for another day. The paper is structured as follows. First we summarise the key issues related to the financial sector for the UK as a whole. Next we turn to the Scottish sector, first providing an overview of the sector and then considering the critical issues so far as each major component of the Scottish sector is concerned. Finally we summarise our conclusions. We note possible ’glimmers of hope’ for the sector, related to: 1. A possible ‘soft’ BREXIT 2. A special deal for UK financial services on skilled non-UK labour or, failing that 3. An analogous special deal for Scotland
So, the report that the Telegraph says warns about the perils of Scottish independence, actually goes out of its way to say it is not about Scottish independence.
I quickly read through the report. It is about how Brexit will affect the Scottish financial industry. The report does admit that they don’t really know the answer because nobody knows what Brexit actually means. The report admits it is conjecture:
A great deal has already been written and said about the possible impact of BREXIT on the UK financial services sector, but it is clear that most of this is, inevitably, conjecture. We do not know what BREXIT will mean, nor when it will actually come to pass and whether there might be special arrangements for the financial services sector and/or an extended transition period.
The report goes onto say Brexit could be really bad or not bad at all depending on what Brexit actually means.
There is one paragraph in the whole report that mentions Scottish independence.
This line of argument does not take us to a case for Scottish independence in the EU. The risks to relationships for the financial sector with counterparts and customers of one type or another in the rest of the UK would intuitively appear at least as great as the risks from a hard BREXIT while remaining within the UK.
For the hard of thinking and Telegraph journalists, what they are saying is that the risk of Scottish independence might be similar to the risk of a hard Brexit.
The Telegraph have taken this meaningless statement as proof that these academics think independence is more dangerous than Brexit. It is not clear how they reached that conclusion or why they are not reporting on the possible damaging ramifications of Brexit contained in the actual pages of the report.
The last sentence in the Scottish independence paragraph is:
The uncertainties for the sector following independence look even greater than those following a sharp BREXIT.
This is a fair point. Note that uncertainty doesn’t mean more dangerous or ultimately worse, it means that Scottish independence might add more unanswered questions onto an already uncertain situation. Obviously, this is also speculation because we don’t know what the plan for independence will be. This is understandable as we are not at the stage of having a referendum yet.
It is the Scottish Government’s job to do better than the Brexiteers and actually come up with a plan that mitigates much of the uncertainty.
We need to reduce the mistakes we made in the past in that respect. As argued in our recent article joining EFTA might not be the worst idea in order to reduce uncertainty.
Anyway, the takeaway from this and last week’s Telegraph article is that Simon Johnson has no problem wilfully misrepresenting serious reports for political gain. Both reports were about Brexit not Scottish independence, and neither report supports the misleading picture he paints.