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What have they got against Scotland?
We need to talk about the Scottish nationalists who never want to talk about Scotland.
We have waited nearly a decade for the case for leaving the UK to be renewed by the SNP Government (remember the Growth Commission was a party, not a government publication). Tomorrow the wait for a new case will be over. The wait for a referendum that nobody really expects will happen will continue. The First Minister’s irritable “tsk” in response to Colin Mackay tells its own story.
We are surely entitled to expect great things of the new case for Scexit. However, the briefing ahead of tomorrow’s ‘scene setter’ document suggests this will be more reheat than reboot.
For nationalists hungry for signs of progress in their stalled campaign, this will be merely an amuse-bouche. Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that we’ll have to wait for answers on the meaty questions of the funding of our public services, the creation of a hard border with England, and, of course, what currency we will use:
“The first paper will very much be a scene-setter - it will look through a wealth of evidence at the economic and social performance of the UK and Scotland within that, compared to a range of other countries across Europe.”
We have been here before. Many times.
Every single time any sort of argument is made for leaving the UK, the case isn’t made with reference to the Scottish economy, Scottish trade, Scottish public services, or Scottish jobs. They can’t talk about the Scottish economy because when they open the books, leaving the UK makes no sense. So instead they open their atlas and take us on a fanciful journey.
In order to avoid talking about the real economic damage caused by breaking up the UK, they bundle together a group of nations that aren’t Scotland and base their case on that. They don’t like the Scottish economic numbers they have - their own public finance figures, their own trade figures, their own analysis of the costs of changing currency - so they have to create new ones - ones that aren’t Scottish.
It has been a generation-long exercise in creating alternative facts. Here are just a few examples of this being deployed:
We can trace the idea all the way back to the Celtic Tiger project when the SNP eyed Ireland’s decision to become a corporate tax haven. This, in turn became the ‘Arc of Prosperity’ in 2006.
Elected to government in 2007, they first directed civil servants to pick a basket of random small countries and then to projecting their growth onto Scotland. The basket then was Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
They repeated it in 2009 when they published ‘Your Scotland Your Voice’. In addition to the original countries, we were asked to imagine that we had the lower corporation tax of the Basque country in Spain and the lower fuel duty of Corsica.
They reheated it in 2013 in “Scotland’s Economy: the case for Scottish Independence”, but this time Norway was dropped and all small EU countries were used.
And of course the same thing was served up for the Independence White Paper which, after repeatedly making the same comparisons to a basket of countries, reduced the complex issues of the economy performance of countries to one factor:
“Similar countries to Scotland have seen higher levels of economic growth over the past generation. That is because they have the bonus of being independent…”
Post-referendum when the Growth Commission was published, we expected something different, but instead heard the same old tune. Although this time a bunch of countries on the other side of the world that were also not Scotland were thrown into the mix.
“If Scotland were country X, we would be Y.” And if my granny had wheels she’d be a bus.
Surely we are not going to be fed the same thin gruel again?
Reheat not reboot.
This is a frame that has been reheated more times than a Travelodge breakfast buffet.
Each time the per-head benefit they extrapolate from their comparison becomes more and more generous. The headline number inflating from £900 per person, £2,700 per person, to £4,100 per person. And always there is only ever one side of the ledger: Irish tax cuts without mentioning the lack of an NHS and the charges for seeing a doctor; Scandinavian social provision, but no mention of the high taxes that pay for it.
In 2014 their analysis was based on Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal & Sweden. In 2016 they removed Iceland, Luxembourg and Portugal from their list but added Belgium, Holland, New Zealand, Singapore & Hong Hong.
Like a World Cup draw, the peoples of the World wait with bated breath to see if their nation will be drawn out of the hat tomorrow. And like a World Cup draw, it is unlikely that Scotland will be invited to the party.
One of the weirdest things about Scottish nationalism is how little Scottish nationalists want to talk about Scotland. It is a sign of how weak their case is that (it appears) a generation later, they still can’t bring themselves to talk about our nation.
If they want to convince sceptical Scots that they have a real plan, they should try to be a little less, ahem, anti-Scottish.