‘Conditional Nos’, and the Rougher Wooing of a Second Honeymoon: The Extreme Economic Risk of Scottish Dependence, with a London Set on Expansion

I cannot claim – as many male commentators have done – to have wept since the result, in either minor or major fashion. But I do have ‘moments’ – times when that sense of loss drifts unbidden into my mind, and I drift quietly into reflections on how different things could be right now. In extremely short order after the result was declared, Cameron announced slashing cuts to Scottish public funding, Osborne announced an even higher level of welfare cuts than had previously been declared, and the glorious British Empire announced it was flying off to bomb yet another country, yet again increasing our priority as a target for would-be terrorist attacks. And we are dragged along with it: Scotland’s own Velvet Revolution – withheld; Robin McAlpine’s Butterfly Rebellion (http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/09/14/the-butterfly-rebellion/) ‘denied’. No matter how inevitable independence for Scotland may well now be, it is galling and depressing to see The Path Not Chosen diverging further and further from our increasingly bleak immediate future – albeit on lines that were entirely predicted (see previous posts) – and I wonder how emaciated and husk-like the eventually discarded Scotland will finally be. With each new announcement, I catch myself drifting off to the thought of ‘we could have been heading out of this incompetent mess by now’.

Some Scottish voters (allegedly 25% of those that voted No) may have thought that they were giving a ‘conditional No’, on the basis of some enhanced devolution option being touted as ‘The Vow’ – however elsewhere, in strict interpretation of the answer to the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country’, the No vote is tantamount to a centuries-late, retrospective democratic validation of the Union: to continue the tired metaphor of the relationship or marriage in trouble, a ‘renewal of vows’, as it were. And although the ‘rough wooing’ with political and trade sanctions against Scotland that coerced the Union into originally taking place meant Scotland went through a grim time with its sociopathic and hostile neighbour, the prospects for what follows now (a ‘second honeymoon’ perchance?) looks to be even grimmer.

And it seems that – for one party in this marriage at least – a Retail Therapy Binge is called for. We all knew the ongoing costs that Scotland was having to subsidise Westminster for – apart from the more than £120 million every 5 years that Scotland pays to support both chambers of the Westminster Parliament itself, the London costs to Scotland also include the London Supersewer (£500 million); the M25 upgrade (£600 million); London Crossrail (£1.6 billion); HS2 phase 1 London-Birmingham (£5 billion). In the offing were a further £22 billion that Scotland was due to pay, with HS2 phase 2 Leeds-Manchester (£1.7 billion) and a London Orbital Railway costing a further twenty. The latter element was part of the London Infrastructure Plan 2050, and a few days before the Referendum, London announced its shopping list for the other elements.

In an overall projection that argues that London will need to double the amount that it spends on its infrastructure by 2025, the range of additional train systems including the South London Metro and the Outer London Orbital, replaced water and electricity networks, extra green space, houses, schools, colleges and rolling out 5G mobile all come to a grand total of £1.3 trillion. On past form, that would mean Scotland paying over £100 billion to deliver these projects…at the same time as Scottish public funding is slashed, and (the most likely outcome of any Westminster ‘deal’) the Scottish Government has to start paying for an extra tier of civil servants in order to collect some tax revenues.

That ‘No’ vote will cost us financially, and cost us severely: with poverty levelsin Scotland already around 20%, the UK deficit continues to be over £100 billion year on year, and tax receipts (outside of the housing bubble) are not increasing, so it is to be expected that the projected cuts will increase in savagery if some real economic recovery does not miraculously turn up soon.

We may be heading for a Caledonian Winter, but let us hope that the opportunity and chance of that Caledonian Spring will come again.

 

“When you put all of these together, there’s very little left in the union except sentiment, history and family.” (Sir Tom Devine, historian)

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