Rowling is right, we need unbiased experts writing financial reports
The following article on the need for unbiased experts may be completely wrong, after all, we do live in a post-truth world.
Trump, Better Together and the Brexiteers have demonstrated to us that emotion quashes reason when it comes to mass decision making. It might be worth not bothering to make an intellectual case for Scotland being independent, and instead, we could just ramp up the blaming of outsiders and pepper that with mind-numbingly simple solutions to complex issues. That might work but it certainly wouldn’t be a moral victory or one to be proud of.
In my experience, most yes voters can articulate a strong intellectual case for independence however very few of us know much about macroeconomics.
My position on GERS is a layman’s opinion based on knowing that the figures are a reflection of Scotland’s finances within the UK. Regardless of how bad our finances are on independence day, the only way we can fix them is to take responsibility for them ourselves. I know enough to know that in order to effectively fix any country’s finances that country needs control of all of its economic levers. I know that we are not as a country uniquely incapable of balancing a budget or paying off a deficit. I know that most of the countries that I want Scotland to aspire to be like are small independent countries at the heart of Europe, and I can see no reason why we can’t be as prosperous and fair as them.
While I understand that Scotland can survive and flourish post-independence what I don’t know is exactly how we will do this.
I am aware of the type of mechanisms that countries use to manage their finances but I am unqualified to formulate the plan of action. Similarly, I don’t have the expertise to evaluate how accurately GERS will reflect the starting position of an independent Scotland.
Despite what Michael Gove thinks, we need experts to enable an electorate to make informed choices in the run up to a referendum. Otherwise, everyone who planned to vote based on reason would have to learn every subject from scratch. This would be illogical and impossible.
This is why we should applaud organisations like Common Weal for making an effort to get answers to the type of questions that were stumbling blocks during the first indyref. The problem is their report, Beyond GERS: Scotland’s fiscal position post-independence, was itself not written by an expert.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising the content of the report, I don’t have the expertise to do so. It may be 100 percent accurate and I like the idea behind looking deeper at such issues.
I just think it is counterproductive to go to the trouble of producing a report that is so easily dismissed by the other side. Blogs/opinion pieces are fine but really a report should be authoritative and as such should be produced to a higher standard.
Here is the problem. Next to nobody is going to read a financial report. It would be unfair to expect them to do so and, like me, they wouldn’t know how to properly evaluate it. What people will do is look at the source of the report, look at the credentials of the author and then draw conclusions as to how to interpret the content based on those factors.
This report was published in an indy leaning publication and was written by a pro-indy supporter with no expertise to write financial reports. The fact that it paints a positive picture of Scotland’s post indy finances may be completely coincidental, it may be completely accurate, the point is it doesn’t matter. It has a whiff about it that our foes will exploit.
The report will obviously play well in the web circle-jerks already frequented by people like you and I.
However, the people who it is trying to convince, namely those who voted no last time, are more likely to hear about the report second or third hand via sources that have a pro-union bias. An example of this is via JK Rowling’s twitter feed. A lady who, unfortunately, has much more sway with no voters than all of the new indy media combined.
Nationalist maths. I’d say ‘you couldn’t make it up’, but they have. pic.twitter.com/JL8OUGsM48
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 18, 2016
Similarly, the mainstream media, in the unlikely event they choose not to ignore the report, will carry a quote from the likes of Jackson Carlaw, pointing out the obvious bias and lack of expertise of the source. Within hours of publication, social media was full of equally unqualified people posting links to their blogs debunking the Common Weal report.
All of this could be avoided by asking a neutral eminent and qualified third party to look into the issues. I appreciate this may be expensive but surely the yes movement could collectively commission such a thing. I presume the SNP are doing so behind the scenes.
Having a clearer picture of our finances via investigations carried out by neutral, qualified sources is what we all deserve before a second indyref. It won’t change my view on independence but it will give me a more realistic view of what independence will entail. Though for some, the source of the information and how the wider independence movement deals with it, could make the difference between yes and no.
Relying on convenient findings produced by under qualified people on our own side is the way of Trump and the Brexiteers. Maybe it is a winning strategy, but I don’t see how it will convince those we couldn’t convince last time. Anyway, I’d rather win by working with the opinions of experts, regardless of how harsh that may be.