We should base the economics of independence on the worst case scenario.
I was reading Kevin Hague’s latest rewriting of his oft repeated “Nat’s don’t understand the economics of independence” blog, this time published in the Daily Record.
In it, the only man in the world who understands GERS explains economic theory to window-licking separatists, in his signature condescending but slightly exasperated style. For the eight hundredth time he lays out just how much of a financial basket case Scotland would be if not suckling from the teat of mother Britannia.
In this instalment he whines about Salmond’s breathtaking arrogance. Salmond had apparently ‘mansplained’ (which to my knowledge is a portmanteau of the only type of explaining men are capable of) GERS to renowned economist Kate McCann of all people. Wee Eck told her that GERS actually hides a rosy financial picture of the Scottish economy, a theory I oft hear repeated by my fellow brainwashed acolytes who join me as I slavishly worship at the cult of self determination.
Salmond suggested that Scotland pays up to £35 billion pounds on UK public expenditure that we wouldn’t do if we were independent.
He argued that the savings we would make post independence by not doing so would dwarf the GERS deficit. Breathtaking stuff indeed although, sadly not breathtaking enough to render Hague incapable of writing his article again.
Anyway, I don’t know who is right and who is wrong here. Probably neither of them. Point is, it doesn’t matter. The debate can’t be won by our side if we play by the opposition’s rules. It looks ridiculous for a member of the Scottish governing party to be rubbishing their own figures. This type of argument is a distraction and only plays into the hands of those who want to keep the UK together. It would be crazy to fight a second indyref and make the same mistakes we made the first time.
Here is the rub.
If everyone supporting independence spends their time arguing about what the finances will look like it will breed uncertainty.
As we learned previously, certainty is what undecided voters crave.
If everyone supporting independence accepts that Kevin Hague’s predictions are plausible, and we all have a plan to deal with that scenario, then we breed confidence.
If half of the country are seen by the undecideds to be accepting of short term pain in return for reaping the long term benefits, we will be in a more persuasive position.
We need to act like the GERS figures are bonafide when we argue the case for independence. We need to say, the first five to ten years are going to be tough but here is our economic strategy. We need to assert that in the long term it is better for us to be a small, independent, representative democracy at the heart of Europe. The economic prospectus should be based on us starting from a crippling position.
This tactic will have several advantages over the message from the previous campaign:
- As discussed it will pull the rug from under one of the few decent arguments that the No campaign have left.
- It will actually persuade a lot of level headed small “c” conservative types to vote for independence as they were put off previously by what they perceived as the Shangri la they saw many promote in 2014.
- If we base our plan on the worst case, the reality can only be better. Not only because GERS may well not be correct but also because one of the only reliable predictors of how an economy will do is that they tend towards the mean. Poorly performing economies are likely to grow and vice versa.
- The UK economy will also be in trouble when this debate is happening, and the prognosis for the UK economy will likely be poor. Therefore, even if we are selling a tough start to independence, then the choice will be between two rough situations. The safety and surety of union no longer exists.
- It will either lead to the diversification of the content of, or the ultimate demise of, Kevin Hague’s blog.
Learning from last time we should look to control the terms of the debate. We should look to nullify the obvious points our opponents are going to make before they even have a chance to make them.
Indyref2 shouldn’t be dick swinging contest about which country has the highest GDP and lowest deficit. It should be about which post referendum reality offers the greater prospects for Scotland in the future. What version of events will make us more like the most flexible, democratic, prosperous and fair countries of the world.
As we have said before, it is not the size of your GDP that matters it is what you do with it.
So, let’s neuter Kevin Hague and his ilk and their one repeated ad nauseam point about how Nats are deluded about GERS. Regardless of the true state of our finances, lets base our case on GERS being correct. Lets tell people our finances look grim, but we have a good plan to sort them out, and we have a good system in place to keep them healthy in the future.
Let’s point out that our finances got the way they are while the economic levers remain at Westminster.
Let’s make it clear that leaving the common market, and having the key economic decisions made by an outward looking, anti immigration, neocon Tory party in London isn’t going make things any better.
The key to winning this debate is to accept that while things may be bad for Scotland, the best remedy if for Scotland to take back more control.