LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: Independence would do even more damage than Brexit

In an article in the Scotsman, Alistair Carmichael has pointed out the similarities between Scottish independence and Brexit. He said a hard border between Scotland and England would be inevitable:

Just as it is uncontested that ursine mammals defecate in forested areas, it is not a matter of debate that, under SNP plans, an independent Scotland would have a hard border with the rest of the United Kingdom.

He points out the harsh realties of independence:

The reality is that if Scotland separates from the rest of the UK and cuts itself off from its “single market” then there will have to be customs posts and officials, checks and barriers between Scots, our businesses and our biggest trading partners.

It is a simple matter of common sense – and for those lacking in common sense it is also a fact affirmed by experts in international trade and economics, the same experts who voiced the same concerns about Brexit and are in the process of being proven correct.

He compares Sturgeon’s language to that of Farage and Johnson over Brexit:

It speaks volumes that Nicola Sturgeon’s statements around independence and trade barriers mimic almost to the word the arguments of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – that we would somehow be re-engaging with the wider world by building yet another hard border.

And an SNP candidate’s claims that a hard border would create jobs was no barrier to a campaign visit from Sturgeon:

It says still more that, in a moment of candour, Emma Harper claimed that a hard border could generate employment. You might think this was just the latest example of a member of the SNP “going rogue”, but the First Minister happily campaigned with her just days later. If your economic plan for independence relies on giving everyone a job as a border guard, it does not inspire a great deal of confidence.

The nationalists have one significant advantage in their fight to put a gloss on the hard reality of a hard border, namely the contortions the Conservatives are forced to put themselves through having backed Brexit trade barriers just a few months ago.

The Tories’ hopeless inconsistency and economic incoherence, however, should not stop those of us pointing out that independence and Brexit are the same destructive and divisive proposition wrapped up in a different flag.

And what should we all be talking about instead?

A debate over the potential harm of hard borders is not, frankly, the debate we should be having in 2021 with a week before a crucial Holyrood vote. We should be talking about a bounce-back plan for education, about improving mental health provision, about putting the recovery of our country – physically, mentally, economically – first. Those are the priorities of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and I believe that they are the real priorities of Scots up and down this country.

As long as Nicola Sturgeon and others – including her former colleague Kenny MacAskill in his Scotsman column – continue to deny the hard reality of hard borders, however, we cannot leave their wild and damaging assertions go unanswered.

We have to demand better. If we are going to rebuild our country after Covid, it will help to back those who can admit to themselves that the sky is blue – and that more hard borders are not the solution to our problems.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Laurence Cox 2nd May '21 - 2:52pm

    But what is the Scottish Party’s position on this?

    Are we going to see a Willie Rennie photo-op with deep-fried Colin?

  • Brad Barrows 2nd May '21 - 4:04pm

    The entire Scottish Liberal Democrat group of MSPs could fit comfortably inside a Ford Mondeo. The party is currently fighting to retain its position as the 5th largest party with a real danger it could be relegated to 6th place. Maybe Mr Carmichael would be better employed articulating why the Scottish Liberal Democrats are still relevant to Scottish politics rather than merely Repeating Unionist talking points that are being made more strongly by the larger Unionist parties.

  • Mario Caves 3rd May '21 - 10:44am

    It’s not a hard long term economic choice for Scotland is it?

    Either have a trade border between Scotland and England,
    have a trade border between Scotland and Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain & Sweden?

  • John Marriott 3rd May '21 - 11:53am

    I have written several times about Scotland’s rejuvenation since Devolution. Credit has got to go to ALL major parties that have been part of successive Scottish governments since then, the only exception, I believe, being the Conservative Party.

    There is no doubt, in my humble opinion, that the ability to make decisions on local issues locally is a good idea. Surely that’s what democracy is all about. However, if we transpose that idea to England, which, if we are going to maintain a Federal U.K. of equals, has got to mean splitting what is by far the biggest of the four ‘nations’ into regions, then each constituent part (and there could be as many as nine or ten) has got to realise that, in certain matters, it really IS on its own. There should be no ‘helicopter’ Federal Government, thinking it knows best and riding roughshod over local democracy. As a parent, you understandably try to make sure that your children don’t make the same mistakes that you might think you did. From my experience, it’s often best to leave them alone to find out for themselves!

    If Scotland does get a chance to vote for full independence as opposed to what I personally consider to be a better option, namely so called ‘Devo Max’, then it really does have to consider what it will be giving up. Extreme cakeism ist NOT on the agenda. In 2019 the opposition parties at Westminster had a chance of voting for a kind of EU ‘Devo Max’. (Come to think,of it, our existing EU membership, with the various opt outs and rebates, was delivering that to us already; but that argument is yesterday’s news.) That never happened and we are now starting to feel the pinch in many areas.

    While Independence for Scotland might pan out in the long term, the upheaval in the short term might be quite dramatic. Is that REALLY what the majority of those living north of the border want? As Joni Mitchell famously sang; “ You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone”.

  • Peter Hirst 3rd May '21 - 12:22pm

    The possibility of a hard border between Scotland and England should put the idea of Scotland, if it votes and achieves independence applying for EU membership to bed. It would wreck the Scottish economy and forever change its way of life. I think I can rely on the good sense of the Scottish people to reject that idea at the ballot box.

  • Peter Martin 3rd May '21 - 1:28pm

    @ Mario,

    I agree that, ideally, we shouldn’t have the trade borders you describe. If I want to sell a totally legal item to someone in Croatia, or if they want to sell something to me, why do we need the approval of our respective governments? OK there might be reasons which even the EU would acknowledge if we included a non EU country in the list, but that is really all that the EU need be about.

    Instead it goes much further, and wants to insist that everyone uses a common currency and that EU law has to have supremacy over local law.

    So this is what Scotland would be signing up to by joining the EU. In effect there is a three way choice for the Scots:

    1) Stay with the UK. Use the pound. Have as much devolution as it likes but this will mean always having to allow the Westminster govt to have the final say.

    2) Sever all ties with the UK. Join the EU. Commit to using the euro and in the interim follow the rules of their SGP on debts and deficits. Allow EU law to have supremacy over Scottish law. The European Commission always has the final say.

    3) Sever all ties with the UK. Don’t join the EU. Have a genuinely independent Scotland with its own currency. Give full power to its own Parliament to set its own laws. Negotiate trade deals with who it likes on the terms that it is able to achieve.

  • Peter Martin (and Unionist Lib Dem scare merchants) shouldn’t let prejudice (or their fearsome collywobbles) get in the way of the facts.

    Peter & Co choose to ignore Scotland’s near neighbour, Denmark (similar size population, no nuclear deterrent to pay for). Denmark has not introduced the euro (rejected after a referendum in 2000), though the Danish krone is pegged closely to the euro in ERM II, the EU’s exchange rate mechanism.

    Denmark borders on one eurozone member, Germany, and one other EU member, Sweden, (legally obliged to join the euro in the future though the Swedes reject this and as far as I know no steps have been taken to enforce it).

    Switzerland has many similarities. One significant difference is the lack of cuckoo clocks in Glasgow, though no doubt Carrie Antoinette will be asking Lulu Little to install gold ones in Downing Street…… and, if anyone is to introduce a hard border with England it will be her English Nationalist flat sharer Johnson.

    @ Hugh Young Keep God out of it. It’s amazing who gets called in whenever there’s a threat of self determination by the native people.

  • @Peter Martin – …but that is really all that the EU need be about.
    You are confusing the EU – the political project with the Single Market – the economic/trade project; they are different, albeit both are administered by “the EU”.

    I think it would be a good thing for Scotland (and the “Scottish Borders” – a potential equivalent to N.Ireland) to become part of the EU, it would help massively in waking the Westminster idiots up to the modern world and the reality of England’s place in it.

  • Joseph Gerald Bourke 3rd May '21 - 5:24pm

    A formal currency union was ruled out in 2014 by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the event of a Yes vote. The parties argued: “If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the pound.”
    In 1885, Gladstone re-established a Scottish Secretary, and Scottish Office. The following year Gladstone introduced the Irish Home Rule Bill. Many Scots began questioning the status quo, regarding it as inadequate in light of the Irish situation.
    In 1913, a Scottish Home Rule Bill was introduced in parliament, a year before the Irish Home Rule Bill, but the progress of both was hampered by the outbreak of the First World War, and Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising and War of Independence in the early 1920s.
    The SNP formed in 1934 from the merger of the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party, an organisation favouring home rule formed by former Conservative Party members. The SNP emerged as the largest party with 47 seats in the 2007 Holyrood election, closely followed by Scottish Labour with 46. The Scottish Conservatives won 17 seats, and the Libdems 16. In the 2010 Westminster elections it was Labour 41, LibDems 11, SNP 6 and Conservatives 1.
    In 2011, the SNP won 69 seats, gaining 32 constituencies including 22 from Scottish Labour, nine from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and one from the Scottish Conservatives. It was Labour’s worst election defeat in Scotland since 1931, with huge losses in traditionally ‘safe’ areas and a heavy reliance on regional lists to elect members.
    In 2012, Alex Salmond launched the campaign for Independence. The referendum in 2016 recorded a vote against separation – 55% to 45%. Conservatives bounced back in the 2016 Holyrood elections winning 31 seats against Labours 24, but the SNP and Greens formed a government. A similar outcome appears likely this week.
    Scotland has long been on the path to independence. It is just a question of what form that will eventually take – the so called ‘Devo Max’ within a federal UK or a fully independent Scottish state as a member of the European Union. It is a question all parties need to be prepared to answer in the coming years.

  • Peter Martin 3rd May '21 - 11:56pm

    @ David Raw,

    I’m sure I have explained many times that it is almost as bad to peg your currency rigidly to the euro as actually use it. We tried it with its predecessor, the DM, and came a cropper on Black Wednesday. So, to all intents and purposes Denmark is part of the eurozone. It would have no difficulty making the transition.

    This is because the Danish Krone is pegged at lower than its free market value so the speculators can’t force it down and make a killing as happened with us. A cheaper than market value currency also enables Denmark to run a large export surplus which is the only way any country can do well in the EU.

    So one way for Scotland to do sort-of-OK would be to set up its own currency and peg it at a much lower level against the euro than the pound is at presently. I would suggest something like 20% lower. Wages would have to be severely suppressed to reduce domestic demand and preserve the competitiveness of a devalued currency.

    It’s probably not surprising that Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t want to explain all this.

    @ Roland,

    Yes the UK is geographically in Europe. But this doesn’t mean we have to get into bed with the European countries to the extent that was being required by the EU. We wanted to have free trade with the EU but there were too many other conditions.
    The USA and Canada get along fine without having any desire to share Parliaments or currencies. The same is true for NZ and Australia. They are both much more similar to each other that the 27 countries of the EU.

    What could work fine for Australia and NZ will never work in Europe. The EU is a nice idea but it will never function as intended. The trade project was fine. The political project and the crazy economics that go with it has been a disaster.

  • Peter Martin,

    UK trade in goods and services with Denmark is pretty much in balance. The Danish Krone is pegged to the Euro, so its market value is set by the market value of the Euro. Danish workers have amongst the highest wage levels and overall standard of living in Europe

  • Peter Martin 4th May '21 - 7:03am

    @ Joe,

    The trade balance or imbalance between any two countries isn’t that important in itself, rather It is the overall balance which is.

    Denmark’s current account surplus is 7.5% of GDP. For Germany it is 8% of GDP. Denmark could easily rectify the imbalance by letting its currency genuinely float. So they are essentially running the same kind of “wacky economics” (Wolfgang Münchau’s phrase in the FT) that brings so much criticism to Germany. Denmark generally is given a better rap than Germany but that can only be because it is smaller. The percentages are pretty much the same.

    But Scotland isn’t Denmark. However, if you disagree and think that having a cheaper than market currency with a tight squeeze on wages is the way to go, then by all means explain the plan to the Scottish people. It could work for a small country like Scotland in the same way as it sort-of-works for Ireland. The Irish have an even bigger surplus. That is if we believe Ireland’s dodgy accounting but that’s another story.

    The real objection to this kind of surpluses-are-good “wacky economics” thinking is that it ignores simple arithmetic. One country’s surplus is another’s deficit. With a 27 country grouping like the EU there have to be those who run those deficits. Scotland is very likely to continue to be one, whether or not it joins the EU. The Danes and the Germans won’t thank it for that though! But they should.

  • Peter Martin 4th May '21 - 7:49am

    @ Joe,

    “UK trade in goods and services with Denmark is pretty much in balance.”

    As I’ve already written, this isn’t what matters but even so it doesn’t ring true.

    The Danes themselves say that the UK takes in 5.5% of their total exports but only supplies 3.8% of their total imports. And their total exports are much greater than their total imports!

  • @ Peter Martin “I’m sure I’ve explained many times…..” I’m sure you have.

    I’m sure everybody reads every word as, I’m sure, does the Danish Government . They too, are in awe of you and might even send you a few Kroner by way of thanks.

  • John Marriott 4th May '21 - 8:00am

    @Peter Martin
    You know, I reckon you would get further if you added those three words “in my opinion” to most of your arguments. What puts economic novices like me off much of what you write is your conviction that you are always right and that others, usually Mr Bourke, are invariably wrong. Quite often, IN MY OPINION, the truth often lies somewhere in between.

  • Peter Martin 4th May '21 - 8:15am

    @ John Marriott,

    As I often annoy my wife by saying: I could agree with more Joe but then that would make two of us which are wrong! 🙂

    Look, I do try to back up whatever I write with references. I’m not impervious to reasoned argument. I do remember being corrected on a point about real interest rates by Joe. He pointed out that it was quite unusual for real interest rates to be negative.

    So he’s not always wrong! But he usually is.

  • Cheer up, Peter, we love you, really.

    Fact is John and I have both lived a long time and a natural scepticism in this imperfect world can be a refreshing antidote to so called certainties.

  • John Marriott 4th May '21 - 10:09am

    I agree with David Raw.😀😀

  • George Thomas 4th May '21 - 2:18pm

    I would love to know what it would take for Lib Dems to consider supporting independence. We’re a few days away from Tories massive majority getting one bigger with every pundit saying that the most likely outcome of the next Westminster election is a further Tory majority which hands this government – one which has been attacking devolution – license to carry on acting as they have.

    Scotland would be worse off independent but it’s also going to be worse off after 9 more years of Tory government in Westminster. Argument Lib Dems who don’t want independence should be making is why Westminster is suddenly going to improve rather than why independence will be extremely difficult – the latter is already known.

  • “I would love to know what it would take for Lib Dems to consider supporting independence”.

    They would need to rediscover their historical legacy and roots from pre WW1 days when the majority of Scotland’s then 58 Liberal M.P.’s favoured a form of Home Rule independence with Dominion status. These days, (in the words of Liberal MP Hilaire Belloc) it’s a case of timidly ‘hanging on to nurse for fear of something worse’.

  • Mario Caves 3rd May ’21 – 10:44am:
    It’s not a hard long term economic choice for Scotland is it?

    Either have a trade border between Scotland and England,
    have a trade border between Scotland and Austria, […], Sweden?

    60% of Scotland’s exports go to the rest of the UK (20 times larger than those to Germany).
    19% of Scotland’s exports go to the EU27.

    Source: Scottish Government via Facts4EU…

    ‘Nicola, why won’t you tell your voters who really buys from Scotland?’ [February 2021]:

  • Peter Martin 5th May '21 - 7:23am

    “Scotland would be worse off independent but it’s also going to be worse off after 9 more years of Tory government in Westminster. ”

    Well I’m not sure about that. It depends on how well the major economies recover after the Pandemic much more than which party who has the most seats in Westminster.

    Rishi Sunak has done a pretty good job in supporting the economy through the Pandemic. When the first billions were being spent various Lib Dem and Labour politicians were asking the silly question of where the money was going to come from. RS knew full well the answer to that. ie Largely from the BoE who can create as much as they like. I doubt Sajid Javid would have handled the situation anwhere near as well, Getting rid of him was at least one thing Boris Johnson got right,

    We can all make criticisms of how Govt support could be better, and make arguments that certain groups have been relatively neglected but overall its difficult to see how any other party would have done better. The Tory right are quite bewildered by what has happened. One common argument they make, and only partly in jest, is that there is no need for the Labour Party to advocate Nationalising the railways and paying the wages of unemployed workers when the Tories are doing that for them anyway.

    Of course this is likely to change once we get back to something more like normal. But it will change in the USA and the EU too. This will affect Scotland much more than any change in the Westminster government. Joe Biden has the right idea. His stimulus measures will be measured in the Trillions of dollars. As usual the EU has the wrong idea on how to recover from the Pandemic. 750 billion euros might sound a lot but half of this is loans rather than targetted spending. There needs to be much more than this spent, even in the first year, but this figure is the projected recovery spending over five years.

    It’s nowhere near enough and will negatively impact us all even though both Scotland and the rest of the UK are now not a part of the EU.

  • Peter Martin 5th May '21 - 7:56am

    @ Martin,

    “Peter Martin’s economics could be valid.”

    It’s nice of you to say that but they aren’t mine. They are much more the work of people like Bill Mitchell, Stephanie Kelton, Randall Wray, and Warren Mosler. I probably should add Steve Keen to the list even though he’s at odds with the others on some issues.

    Then on a historical level, all have drawn from the thinking of many others including Keynes, Kalecki and to a certain extent Marx.

    I just add my tuppence worth to interpret it as I see it.

  • The point about independence is that it “isn’t just for Christmas – but for life” – or a sizeable part of it – even if people in Scotland were to massively change their mind after voting for independence – it is likely that they would have to stick with it for 10-20 years.

    While Scotland might be part of a Tory UK at the moment – they have their own powers now to ameliorate it (as non-Tories in Scotland would see it) – income tax raising (or lowering) powers, and they can fund public services better if they so wish. And indeed they have the legacy of the Labour/Lib Dem coalition in Scotland which abolished uni tuition fees there and introduced greater support for adult social care.

    The Barnett formula also provides for greater public funding per head of population in England than in Scotland – although I appreciate there’s a debate about it.

    @Peter Martin

    Sadly there are mutterings from RS about having to get the finances back in order after covid and he *might* well raise taxes and cut public spending too quickly. As real interest rates are negative, it is cheaper to do things that you have to anyway today than tomorrow. And aside from MMT, I’d run a structural deficit of around £50 billion to do things like investing in education that boost GDP growth.

  • @ Michael 1 “The point about independence is that it “isn’t just for Christmas – but for life”.

    The Tories (especially Churchill) said that about India before 1947, Michael. I’m not sure where you’re based, but I’m pretty certain it’s not Scotland. I’m not sure if you realise the Barnett formula is complicated and of decreasing benefit to Scotland.

    Its predecessor was the 1888 Goschen formula as part of the proposals for Irish Home Rule. It allocated 80% of funding to England and Wales, 11% to Scotland and 9% to Ireland; hence the Scottish share was 13.75% of the English/Welsh amount.

    By 1970, in preparation for devolution, changes in the relative populations were re-examined. The relative populations were then 85% in England, 10% in Scotland, meaning that the new Barnett formula set changes to Scottish expenditure at 10/85th of the change in England (or 11.76%), 2% lower than the change that was being received under Goschen. Population percentages have been recalculated annually since 1999,. The Scottish share of changes was in 2002 set at 10.23% of the English amount.

    The original calculation was based on incorrect population estimates, and no attempt was made to adjust the baseline for these errors though changes in expenditure are based on more current population numbers.

    Political unwillingness to manage the task of making the changes necessary to rebalance existing expenditure meant that the Barnett formula was applied only to changes. Nevertheless, the expectation was that as inflation led to repeated application of the formula, average expenditure per head on devolved services in Scotland would over the years fall nearer and nearer to the English figure (the so-called “Barnett squeeze”).

    Details of the funding arrangement can be found in HM Treasury’s Statement of Funding Policy. and maybe a bit of homework might be in order ?

  • Peter Martin 5th May '21 - 10:48am

    @ David Raw,

    The funding by central Govt shouldn’t be calculated on the basis of increased relative population levels being a reason for increased level of funding and vice versa. If relative population levels are falling in any particular part the UK, and central funding is reduced as a consequence, then they are likely to fall even further.

    This is being stuck in a positive feedback loop which will simply mean that the net migration to the SE of England will continue. That’s not good for the SE of England and it is isn’t good for the different regions of the UK.

    The high level of underfunding and consequent higher unemployment levels and generally poor job prospects in Northern Ireland in the 60s when the rest of the UK was doing comparably better was a direct cause of 30 years of “Troubles”. It’s fuelled the rise of Nationalism in Scotland and pro Brexit sentiment in the English regions, that our more prosperous counterparts in the SE find hard to fathom.

    The EU is even worse in promoting regional equality than we have been! It’s going to be a make or break issue for them.

  • Liberal Democrats in Scotland may be interested to know there is a petition available asking Europe to keep a place warm for Scotland in the event of independence. It can be found on the website shown below.

  • Ireland’s experience since independence can furnish lessons for Scotland. Much the same economic arguments were put forward by unionists v nationalists at the time
    “Before independence, nationalist and unionist politicians and commentators contested the economic case for independence and the prospects for Irish prosperity outside the UK. In general, the economic arguments for and against Irish independence revolved around fiscal capacity (the new country being able to raise enough taxes), administrative competence and trade with Britain. Unionists argued that ‘Home Rule for Ireland’ would lead to ‘Home Ruin’. They feared that a protectionist government in Dublin would erect tariffs, cutting off businesses from their main export market in Britain and discouraging investment.”
    “In the 1990s, Ireland drew international attention for its outstanding growth record, underpinned by enormous foreign investment inflows and moderate wage increases. Between 1990 and 2017, the total number at work almost doubled, from 1.15 million to 2.22 million (OECD, 2021). While current and capital expenditure increased rapidly, rapid output growth ensured that total state spending fell to just 33% of GNP by the turn of the millennium (, 2021).
    “It was at about this juncture, however, that the export-led growth of the 1990s transitioned to the property bubble of the post-millennial period. During the 2000s, while policy-makers consistently ran budget surpluses, the Irish Exchequer became increasingly reliant on transient revenue from the property boom. When this evaporated, it left a gulf between tax receipts and public spending obligations. This, in tandem with enormous guaranteed bank liabilities, pushed the state into a bailout in November 2010.”
    Ireland kept the £ from 1921 until it got its own Saorstát pound in 1928, then the Irish Punt in 1938, all of which was pegged to Sterling until it entered the ERM in 1979 as a precursor to joining the Euro in 2002.

  • @David Raw

    I said there was a debate on the Barnett Formula.

    Indeed you seem to have cut and paste some of the Wikipedia article on it (without crediting it – you really should cite your sources (and Wikipedia too!) – I am not sure that your university supervisor will give you a pass!) but not the section on criticism of the Barnett formula!

    The BBC citing ONS statistics note that Scotland as a “fiscal deficit” per person of – the difference between what was raised in revenues and spent of £2,713. It was more in Wales and NI –

    And on “the Barnett Squeeze” the House of Commons library noted: “It is hard to verify the extent to which Barnett squeeze is happening, largely due to a lack of comparable data. However the Holtham Commission, which reported on funding and finance for Wales, found some evidence of Barnett squeeze in Wales by considering functions
    that are funded by the Welsh Assembly’s DEL”

    And against the squeeze:

    “For instance, until 1992 the 1976 population estimates were used for the Barnett formula. During this time Scotland’s population was falling relative to England’s, so not updating the population estimates worked against the Barnett Squeeze.”

    “During periods when spending is falling (as it did between 2009/10 and
    2012/13), if each nation receives the same £ per person fall this will represent a smaller share of the devolved administrations’ relatively higher levels of funding. This works against the Barnett squeeze.”


    As I say there’s a debate and there may be good reasons for the higher spending in Scotland – more need and higher costs of delivering services – especially in some very rural areas.

    But it does seem that if Scotland were to go independent – it would have to find that £2,713 from somewhere.

  • Peter Martin 5th May '21 - 3:21pm

    “Ireland’s experience since independence can furnish lessons for Scotland.”

    Maybe. But many of them are on how not to run an independent country.

    The traditional solution to poverty in Ireland was to get rid of the poor rather than to get rid of the poverty itself. The emigration boat was often the only way out for the Irish younger generation. This is why so many of us have some Irish ancestry.

    Unfortunately not much changed after independence.

    “In the 1950s, approximately half a million left the Irish Republic. Considering the country’s population than stood at less than 3 million, to lose approximately 16% of your population – most of whom were very young and left to gain employment abroad – in one decade was astonishing. Indeed, Ireland shared the ignominy of being the only country in Europe to see its population decline in the 1950s with East Germany. Roughly three out of every five children who grew up in 1950s Ireland left the country at some stage.”

  • Peter Martin 5th May '21 - 3:58pm

    “But it does seem that if Scotland were to go independent – it would have to find that £2,713 from somewhere.”

    Not necessarily.

    In any case, to attempt to even try to balance the books will be repeating the mistakes of the Irish Govt. It’s not simply a matter of raising taxes and/or cutting spending. If Govt cuts its spending it will also cut its revenue. If it raises taxes it will depress the economy and also impact on its own revenue. This will inevitably lead to a downward spiral with the economy forever shrinking as Scotland’s young head South to England or Australia with one way tickets in their hands.

    This is the problem we see in the EU too. The EU tells Greece to balance its books but it can’t. Therefore the economy shrinks and the young leave.

    And how to avoid this fate? One way is to fight its corner within the UK. The other is to to act as a truly independent country and introduce its own currency which will give it control over its own fiscal policy. Maybe the Sporran or the Scottish Pound. It doesn’t matter what it’s called. Providing it is different from the English Pound and the euro and is allowed to freely float on the forex markets.

    But have the Scots got the courage of their convictions to do that? From conversations I’ve had with a Scottish friend I don’t think so. They don’t want the euro and they don’t want their own separate currency. But they, or some of them, do still want to leave the UK.

    I must say I don’t see their logic.

  • So Michael swallows the bait and rushes to look up Wiki as his first resource, whilst Peter, in true “Who wants to be a Millionaire” mode phones up a friend.

    Alas, neither confirm their colonial judgements come from outside the land of Scotia, and dear old Peter in true Clarkson mode talks of the ‘Sporran’ as a currency. That’s all part of the trouble…. the superiority of the southern English which doesn’t travel well.

  • @David Raw


    I think you might just have been found out!

    Anyway its not my only resource – the BBC, the ONS, the House of Commons library and indeed the independent non-partisan Institute for Government which noted: “All three devolved nations appear to be funded above their level of need – but the data is uncertain”

    Anyway why let a few facts stand in your way – you never have in the past. I am sure you will be saying next that the Liberals did it better in your youth before the First World War – oh wait… you already have…!

    (Apologies for the slight ribbing – you never do the same to me of course… it’s meant affectionately and with thanks for your contributions to LDV… 🙂 !)

  • @David Raw

    Just to confirm as you said I didn’t before I don’t live in Scotland at the moment – although as it happens I have in the past.

    Anyway I believe you and others on LDV are encouraging us to have views about other countries in other threads. And of course at least at the moment Scotland isn’t a different country.

    Anyway I look forward to your self-denying ordinance of not commenting on LDV on regions/nations in the UK outside of Scotland!

  • On “colonialism” – of course technically it’s actually the English that are ruled by the Scots as James I (of England and VI of Scotland) was a Scottish king! (or so Wikipedia tells me)

    And of course the Scottish Parliament freely passed the act of union in 1707. To quote the Encyclopaedia Britannica (as a change from Wikipedia – although Wikipedia was found in a study to have few mistakes).

    “statesmen were beginning to realize that an incorporating union offered the only mutually acceptable solution to a problem that had suddenly become urgent: Scotland’s need for economic security and material assistance and England’s need for political safeguards”

    (my emphasis)

    Perish the thought that we would have any statesmen among today’s politicians who might realise that it is not a zero sum game and both Scotland and England and indeed Wales and NI can benefit from being in the same country.

    And yes we need a much more federal country – with devolution to the English regions and indeed England itself. And may be a body like the US senate to give political power to the nations and regions of the UK at a national level.

    It has been notable that Australia as a far more federal country – set up a national cabinet to deal with covid to include the premiers of the individual Australian states and it is arguable that Johnson should have done with same with the FMs of Wales, Scotland and NI…

  • Peter Martin 6th May '21 - 8:13am

    @ David Raw,

    “That’s all part of the trouble…. the superiority of the southern English which doesn’t travel well.”

    I’m not Southern English,

    I do know what you mean but it’s more a class issue that one of geographical origin. A homeless person in Brighton probably doesn’t feel superior to a Highland Laird. I also know why you picked me on when I engaged in a touch of banter wrt to Scottishness! I seem to remember the largely “Southern English” Monty Python crowd used to have a go at us Northerners from time to time and we took it all in good spirit. I’ve never been offended by that. Should I have been?

    Class issues don’t seem to matter much in the LibDems. Not that my own party is much better. This is why politics is now quite different to what it used to be. It’s why Labour can win in Canterbury and Putney but not in Stoke or Hartlepool.

  • Mario Caves 7th May '21 - 10:53am

    Many of the comments here, on both sides of the argument, emphasise that a country’s success depends on HOW you govern that country. Neither being an independent country nor a member of a larger alliance is no guarantee that you’ll be governed effectively, but there’s a lot of advantage in being able to choose to not be part of an increasingly less democratic and increasingly more corrupt establishment.

    What is clear is that if you’re effectively governed by someone else then what matters is how much influence you have in those decisions, and how much those decisions are made for short term individual advantage or long term communal advantage.

    My belief is that Scotland will have more power in influencing the decisions that are applied to it by being a member of the EU rather than a member of the UK.
    One only has to look at the economic success of the Republic of Ireland over the last 100 years to see how Scotland could prosper, geographical position isn’t going to harm it’s economy half as much as Brexit will.

  • Peter Martin 7th May '21 - 5:46pm

    @ Mario Caves,

    “One only has to look at the economic success of the Republic of Ireland over the last 100 years to see how Scotland could prosper, geographical position isn’t going to harm it’s economy half as much as Brexit will.”

    This is just nonsense.

    Ireland has always tried to solve its problems of poverty by exporting its poor rather than tackle the root cause.

    If Ireland were such a success story it would have more people wanting enter the country than were wanting to leave. The official figures for GDP etc often don’t give an accurate picture of what is going on. Just take a look at the direction of net migration instead.

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