Wendy Chamberlain: Lib Dems stand for people politics, not grievance politics

This weekend, we’re publishing all the speeches from Alex Cole-Hamilton’s launch event. Here’s Wendy Chamberlain MP talking about

I am so excited to be here with you all today, because today is a new beginning with a new generation of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, exemplified by Jack Norquoy, and under our new leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

I’ve been a member of this party for only six years. I always joke that I joined crying at Nick Clegg on the Telly in the aftermath of the General Election result of 2015.

That was the start of my journey. If you had told me that I would be an MP for the party within 5 years of joining, I would have laughed very loudly. But this is what this party does, it welcomes with open arms.

Having served in the police until 2011, I could have joined the party then – after all Scottish Liberal Democrats had always had my vote. Watching Nick Clegg, and hearing the core liberal values he espoused, it hit me.

Scotland couldn’t afford to lose those values, or the opportunity to vote for representatives who held them. And that the Scottish Liberal Democrats needed more than my vote, they needed me and others to get involved.

Autumn 2015 – I find myself making my first contribution at a party conference: introducing my now dear friend, Willie Rennie, as he made his then Leader’s speech. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be standing here as North East Fife’s representative in Westminster, and our party wouldn’t be where it was today as it now looks forward beyond the last decade with Willie at the helm.

Across Scotland, where we have representation whether at Council, Holyrood and Westminster, people see the benefit of having a Scottish Liberal Democrat representative. We work hard to get elected – knocking doors all year round, on the phones checking in on the vulnerable during the early stages of the pandemic, delivering leaflets to get our message across as we need to as a smaller party.

Because without those hard-working community campaigners – people like Alex, people like Willie – we can never deliver that change that we want to see in Scotland.

Liberal Democrats need the people of Scotland. And the people of Scotland need Liberal Democrats.

I know we sometimes feel we might be small – but when we work together, we are can be a mighty force.

I saw that in my first campaign, in 2016 – helping get Willie elected in North East Fife; and seeing Alex elected here.

You saw it just a couple of months ago – in Chesham and Amersham where the Liberal Democrats took out a chunk of the Tory Blue Wall. No other party is placed to do that.

Too many people feel forgotten and ignored.

They feel like no-one is listening to them.

And when we demonstrate how hard we work, people notice. We succeed. We never take you for granted. Alex’s own history making election result here in Edinburgh Western demonstrates that that hard work is recognised and appreciated by those we represent.

Local people are the beating heart of our politics. That is why we campaign so hard.

Willie did.

Alex does.

And I will continue to do so in North East Fife, in Westminster:

It’s worth reflecting on the overall makeup of our Westminster parliamentary and the role that our Scottish MPs play within it. We’re a third of the parliamentary party. We are a strong voice – and I can assure you we aren’t backwards at coming forwards! – in our group which means our English colleagues are well aware of what policies mean for Scotland and other devolved administrations (including our close relationship with Alliance).

We hold senior roles – Christine in Treasury, Alistair in Home Affairs and the experience of Jamie Stone in Defence at this globally troubled time. No other UK party can say that. And we represent not a branch office, but a fully federal State Party.

We are the true advocates of devolution, not to further the cause of separation, but because we fundamentally believe in devolving power to where decisions can best be made, right to a local community level.

And we are European to our core. We’ve never shied away from advocating for the closest of relationships with our European neighbours nor jettisoned or embraced it when it seemed electorally advantageous.

We need to offer an alternative. A positive alternative.

Scottish politics is stuck between a rock and a hard place. You’ve got two narrow nationalisms. They offer nothing. Each is obsessed – not with improving people’s lives, no-one can look at this week’s GERS figures and not appreciate the spending cuts and tax rises that would be required for Scotland were it to choose to leave the UK – but with preventing the other side from winning. It’s toxic.

And it’s been like this for a decade.

You can feel it. This Scottish Government – regardless of the extraordinary nature of a Covid-19 election in May – this government is tired.

What’s been unfolding before our eyes over the last couple of years is the chickens coming home to roost after fifteen years of the SNP’s centralisation agenda – health, education, justice, the lack of any coherent industrial strategy, the failure to deliver against the climate emergency agenda by reducing demand on fossil fuels or enabling people to access new technologies and jobs.

Now we might agree with the SNP on their diagnosis: they’re right – the old, Westminster politics isn’t working.

But we are totally at odds with them over the cure.

We want to tackle the problems of Scottish society – not blame them on Westminster.

People politics, not grievance politics.

Reducing inequality, not increasing division.

I know which vision I would rather have of the future. The vast majority of people who get involved in politics as either an activist or with ambitions of more, do it for the right reasons. Isn’t that what politics is ultimately all about – helping improve the community you live in and the wider world?

That is the vision we must offer. And that is what Alex will deliver.

A Liberal future for Scotland. One of positivity and hope.

We stand where the majority of people in Scotland stand.

We are the new generation of Scottish Liberal Democrats.

And now it is our time to take this party forward. That is our mission.

It is time to build Scotland’s Liberal future.

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  • Brad Barrows 21st Aug '21 - 10:36am

    As an aside, the GERS figures are not an argument against independence – they give an indication of how Scotland’s economy performs as part of the UK, and not as it would perform as an independent country with all the economic levers under its control. Those who regard Scotland as a country that is joined in a political and economic union with the rest of the UK will not be persuaded to reject independence by being told that Scotland it too small or too poor to be independent. They will also not be persuaded by having more Union flags flown in their faces. The Brexit vote in 2016, where Scotland voted to remain in the EU but finds itself now out of the EU, is perhaps the strongest argument yet that Scotland needs the ability to make its own decisions. Unionists needs to have cogent arguments against this or Scottish independence will happen within the near future.

  • I’m so pleased Wendy decided to step up and enter active politics. She’s such a fantastic asset to the people of her constituency, our country and to the party. Willie is so good at engaging with people and keeping an eye out for potential candidates, and I hope that’s something we continue to do.

    Wendy is right that the fixation with centralisation is so damaging, and I hope we can make inroads into reversing that. It’s tricky getting the message across, as so many people assume that cuts to council budgets and services are all down to “Westminster” rather than a deliberate choice by the SNP Holyrood Government to seize power and keep more and more of the money for themselves and for projects they can use for photo-opportunities.

  • Gwyn Williams 21st Aug '21 - 11:03am

    I am pleased to see Wendy mentioning the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland. The Alliance articulates a clear pragmatic view. It will look at the constitutional proposes for Northern Ireland as they are fleshed out. It It is not caught between 2 narrow nationalisms. This is certainly the way forward for the Welsh Liberal Democrats and provides a way out of the political trap of Unionism for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

  • Brad Barrows 21st Aug '21 - 1:29pm

    @Gwyn Williams
    “…a way out of the political trap of Unionist for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.”
    I don’t understand your comment: the Scottish Liberal Democrats may support a reformed UK but, fundamentally, is a Unionist Party as it supports the Scotland remaining part of the economic and political union of the United Kingdom. It is not as though the Scottish Liberal Democrats would be open to swinging behind support for Scottish independence if it became clear that such an option would clearly be in the interests of the people of Scotland – the party has completely ruled out that possibility as a fundamental point of principle. Therefore, Unionist is a perfectly apt description.

  • nvelope2003 21st Aug '21 - 2:49pm

    Brad Barrows: There are plenty of poor “independent” countries whose people often choose to move to a wealthier country if they think they will be better off. The warnings that have been issued about the effects of climate change caused by the use of fossil fuels might make it impossible to continue relying on oil revenues. It is unlikely that English taxpayers would be willing to continue subsidising a higher standard of living for Scottish people than that enjoyed by themselves if Scotland was an independent country and the EU would not want to do that either. The impression I get of the SNP is that of relatively affluent middle class romantics who want to go back to the past. They used to have one of the best education systems in the world but this is no longer so, probably for the same reason as in England where those who send their children to independent schools do not want them to have to compete for jobs with well educated state school people.

    The SNP Government have awarded contracts to supporters who have been unable to produce what was required. In a world where climate change, pandemics and the rise of Authoritarian regimes who are willing to do anything to destroy the West and its democratic systems an obsession with Scottish independence seems rather narrow and inward looking and out of keeping with outward looking Scottish traditions.

  • Brad Barrows 21st Aug '21 - 3:14pm

    Allow me to correct one thing: ”…English taxpayers would be willing to continue subsidising…”
    You do realise that England has a budget deficit and therefore has no spare cash to subsidise any other country. The truth is that all the countries of the UK have budget deficits, which are catered for by the UK borrowing huge amounts. It is true that Scotland has had a proportionately larger deficit in the last number of years but that followed a long period of Scotland subsidising the rest of the UK.

  • Peter Martin 21st Aug '21 - 4:21pm

    @ Brad Burrows,

    “Allow me to correct one thing: ”…English taxpayers would be willing to continue subsidising…” You do realise that England has a budget deficit and therefore has no spare cash to subsidise any other country.”

    You aren’t correcting anything. This is the kind of thinking that gets the EU into such a mess with its common currency too. In any currency union like the UK with its pound, the USA with its dollar, the EU with its Euro, the pounds, dollars and euros all tend to gravitate together in the more prosperous areas. If they aren’t taxed away they simply cause too much inflation. We see this in the UK, not so much in the price of groceries, but in the price of housing in the SE of England.

    If government is doing its job properly it needs to push the ££ back out into the regions by directly spending in the less affluent areas. The limitation, as always, is inflation. If house prices in Darlington, or Derry or Dunfermline start to rise sharply we’ll know they are perhaps overdoing it!

  • Brad Barrows 21st Aug '21 - 5:27pm

    @Peter Martin
    Not sure why you think your post is in any way relevant to the point I made that England does not generate a fiscal surplus and therefore English taxpayers are not subsidising other parts of the UK as suggested by a previous post. Your point about pounds gravitating towards more prosperous regions, thereby causing inflation in those areas if not taxed away, misunderstands the nature of money (of which physical notes are a relatively minor part), and misunderstands the nature and causes of inflation. That is not to say that governments should not be redistributing wealth to less affluent area – just that this is not routinely happening from England to Scotland as implied by the post I attempted to correct.

  • Peter Martin 21st Aug '21 - 6:39pm

    @ Brad Barrows,

    Maybe I didn’t explain well enough.

    Can we agree that England is less in deficit than Scotland? If so, and contrary to the “correction” you are attempting to make, there is a “routine” of redistribution occurring. The spending is benefitting Scotland more than England but the debt is being shared equally. If we both wish to buy new cars and I need to borrow £10k but you only need to borrow £5k I’m doing better than you if we agree to share the debt equally. ie £7.5k each

    This shouldn’t, when looked at macroeconomically, be viewed as subsidy. It is the routine fiscal equalisation process that needs to take place if common currency areas are to work effectively. It’s the same everywhere, including the USA, so nothing to do with socialism as some might argue. I would suggest we should have more FE than we do. It’s even present, at least to some extent, in the eurozone except they work on the mistaken belief than the transfers are loans that someday will be repaid. This, IMO, is highly unlikely.

    I agree that it makes no difference whether the money is digital and is moved electronically or whether it is in the form of banknotes and is moved by security van.

    It’s the spending of it that matters and especially where it is spent.

  • John Marriott 21st Aug '21 - 7:05pm

    @Brad Barrows
    Be careful! Otherwise that old fiscal spider Peter Martin will draw you into his web to join Joe Bourke! We could be in for another long thread😀😀!

  • Peter Martin 21st Aug '21 - 7:05pm

    @ Brad Barrows,

    “the GERS figures are not an argument against independence – they give an indication of how Scotland’s economy performs as part of the UK, and not as it would perform as an independent country with all the economic levers under its control. ”

    This is true.

    “Those who regard Scotland as a country that is joined in a political and economic union with the rest of the UK will not be persuaded to reject independence by being told that Scotland it too small or too poor to be independent”

    Who is saying Scotland is too small and too poor to be independent? Iceland has a population of around 300k. If they can do it so can Scotland. Scotland is relatively wealthy by world standards so there’s no reason why they can’t make a go of it. Whether or not they’d be any better off would be open to debate.

    However, and as you say, an independent Scotland would need to have “all the economic levers under its control”. This would mean having its own currency and not using the pound. Trying to use someone else’s currency, or peg their currency to it, was a mistake Ireland made for decades. They got it right for a short time when they had their own separate pound which floated, then they got it wrong again when they adopted the euro.

    So it’s up to the Scots to decide what they want to do.

  • Brad Barrows 21st Aug '21 - 11:38pm

    @Peter Martin
    Fully agree with your most recent post. My only disagreement with your previous post is that the UK National debt is not shared equally…it is shared ‘jointly and severally’. In other words, at the point the debt is created it is impossible to know whether the debt will be disproportionately paid off by English taxpayers on by Scottish taxpayers – the proportionately greater fiscal deficit Scotland has today may be completely reversed in the next decade or two, so while we can agree that Scotland is benefitting more from UK borrowing at present, we can not conclude that the country will not also repay more proportionally in due course. So to cut to the chase: there is no fiscal transfer from English taxpayers to Scotland…there is just proportionately more UK borrowing going to Scotland than to other countries of the UK.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Aug '21 - 6:15am

    “there is no fiscal transfer from English taxpayers to Scotland”

    There probably isn’t in the sense that the UK government doesn’t need taxpayers’ money to finance any of its spending either in Scotland or anywhere else. But this isn’t really the point. Neither should it be a consideration if there is a fiscal transfer from Germany to Greece, or from the rest of the USA to the State of Mississippi.

    We could perhaps frame the question in terms of whether the rest of the USA is better off with or without Mississippi but in the end it comes down to whether the rest of the USA wants Mississippi to be a part of it and whether Mississippi wants to be part of the USA.

    The same considerations apply to Greece and the EU. If the EU wants to include Greece and Greece wants to be a part of the EU then there are going to have to be fiscal transfers. The Germans might like to pretend they are loans but they are dreaming if they believe they will ever be repaid.

  • @Brad, the GERS figures show what Scotland raises in tax and spends on services within the UK. At present we spend more per head of population than we raise in taxes. This remains a notional deficit because we are part of the UK and the difference is made up by a mixture of general borrowing and fiscal transfers.

    It was John Swinney who created the phrase “too wee, too poor, too stupid”. No-one else has said we’re too poor, wee or stupid to be independent, but we would be poorer than we are now if we became independent. Arguably, choosing to make us poorer would be stupid, but as we saw with Brexit, otherwise intelligent people can be persuaded to ignore the predictions of harm on the grounds of patriotic vanity. Swinney knew what he was doing when he came up with that phrase.

    The notional deficit would become a real deficit should Scotland become independent without adjusting our spending. That deficit would quickly become considerable debt, so we’d rely on very heavy borrowing from day one unless we cut our cloth accordingly and have record breaking tax increases.

    GERS deniers take comfort from some of that higher public spending being spent “by Westminster” and act as if that would not be necessary in an independent Scotland. Spending such as pensions and our share of international aid.

    So while GERS is rightly said to represent the state of revenue and spending of Scotland now, not as an independent nation, that’s because a newly independent Scotland would have substantially reduced revenue, and unless we do something very drastic to address that, public spending would need to be considerably reduce.

    The SNP’s “growth commission” report suggested reducing the deficit over a ten year period and their proposals implied cuts far more drastic than anything that came in following the financial crisis of 2008. Many advocates of nationalism insist there is an alternative, but have so far failed to describe what that alternative is. There’s usually some vague chatter about levers and Trident, but never any detail. There’s a few who think we could just borrow the deficit or print money, but with no apparent understanding that without a central bank, quantitative easing is impossible and borrowing is expensive. The line of credit will quickly run dry if you don’t budget for servicing that debt.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Aug '21 - 2:59pm

    I wish the Scots well. No amount of academic discussion of economics can alter the fact that Scotland might become poorer if they could not have the benefits of oil revenues and English subsidies whether they come from taxation or borrowing. I have heard SNP supporters say they would rather eat grass than remain subject to the English yoke. I wonder how many of their fellow countrymen and women would go along with that.

    However, my point is that with all that is going on in the world an obsession with restoring Scotland’s status to what it was before 1603 when the King of Scots became King of England seems a bit petty. I wonder how many Scots people, especially younger ones, know that it was Scotland that took over England, not the other way round, hence the expression about a Scotsman on the make coming to England. The population of Scotland has been in relative decline compared to England, which has no doubt benefitted from all those Scotsmen and women on the make ! Quite a lot of Icelandic people move to the UK and other parts of Europe, possibly some even go to Denmark.

  • Brad Barrows 22nd Aug '21 - 3:45pm

    @Fiona, @nvelope2003
    Despite you both now being aware (see discussion above) that no country of the UK has a fiscal surplus, and therefore the ability to afford to make fiscal transfers to any other, you persist in referring to ‘fiscal transfers’ and to ‘English subsidies’. I know we are in a post-truth ago but political discourse will be severely hampered if people merely ignore facts that they find inconvenient to their arguments and continue to make false or misleading claims. Scotland may well become poorer if it votes for independence but we should not have to ignore or misrepresent facts to make that case.

  • Brad Barrows 22nd Aug '21 - 3:49pm

    By the way, the SNP seeks to return to the political position in 1707 – not 1603. In other words, they wish to end the Treaty of Union of 1706 that led to the creation of the political and economic union of the Kingdom of Great Britain on May 1st, 1707.

  • Brad Barrows 22nd Aug ’21 – 3:49pm:
    By the way, the SNP seeks to return to the political position in 1707 – not 1603.

    The SNP want to leave one Union and join another. Currently, the only political party which wants Scotland to be independent is Restore Scotland:

  • Brad Barrows 22nd Aug '21 - 6:08pm

    Thanks Jeff. In that respect I stand corrected. I was aware that the Alba Party supported EFTA membership rather than EU membership but I was not aware of Restore Scotland.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Aug '21 - 9:18pm

    Brad Barrows: You are entitled to your opinions however misguided but you are not entitled to call people liars just because you don’t like what they say. It is not acceptable to use supposedly clever talk to mislead people.
    Yes technically 1707 is the date when the Scottish Parliament and separate Government was abolished but it was merely the inevitable development of the events of 1603.I would like to know how Scotland has benefited from the restoration of its Parliament and Government

  • Its a well crafted speech but what does “people politics” not “grievance politics” mean. Is the Lib Dem FOCUS Team pointing crossly at a pot hole “people politics” or “grievance politics”.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Aug '21 - 10:40pm

    @ Fiona,

    “The notional deficit would become a real deficit should Scotland become independent without adjusting our spending. That deficit would quickly become considerable debt, so we’d rely on very heavy borrowing from day one unless we cut our cloth accordingly and have record breaking tax increases.”

    No. It doesn’t work like this. This is household economic thinking. A household would go out to borrow if it wanted to spend more that its income. Not a currency issuing government. A genuinely independent Scotland would have its own currency which would rise and fall to automatically balance the current and capital accounts. So if Scots people were spending too much on imports creating a deficit in the current account, the Scottish currency would fall unless others wanted to put money into Scotland via the capital account.

    An independent Scotland would be more like a bank which only borrows because people want to lend to it. ie put their savings somewhere secure.

    My guess would be that the currency of an independent Scotland would fall from parity with the pound. But it is only a guess! If anyone could predict currency movements they would be very wealthy indeed!

  • Peter Martin 22nd Aug '21 - 11:01pm

    @ Wendy Chamberlain,

    “…….no-one can look at this week’s GERS figures and not appreciate the spending cuts and tax rises that would be required for Scotland were it to choose to leave the UK”

    This is more neoliberal household economic nonsense. If an independent Scotland cut its spending it would also cut its income. If it raised taxes it would slow the economy and reduce the tax take even further. The gap between revenue and spending wouldn’t fall and may even increase.

    The government of an independent Scotland would only need to raise taxes and cut spending if it had an inflation problem.

    I hope Scotland stays in the UK but we shouldn’t try to achieve this by scaremongering with false economics. There are countries smaller than Scotland which do perfectly well and there is no reason why they cannot do well too. Equally, there is no reason why they can’t get it all wrong and stuff up badly. One way to do that would be to try to hang on to the pound. But why would Scots want to do that if they want independence too?

  • This is the economics editor of the Sunday Times on Scotland’s fiscal position http://www.economicsuk.com/blog/002396.html. It is pretty much in line with Fiona’s comments above. He writes if the the lack of “any plan for post-independence currency arrangements. This has become more, not less, difficult since the 2014 referendum, he pointed out. The plan suggested by some a few years ago, that an independent Scotland could enter into a monetary union with the rest of the UK and continue to use the pound, would not work now if Scotland wanted, as it does, to join the EU. A country in a monetary union with a non-EU country, which the UK now is, cannot join the EU.

    Scotland could try to start a currency from scratch, with its own central bank, but it takes time to establish the credibility of a new currency and an independent central bank in what he described as a “politically charged environment”. Or, continued use of sterling on a temporary basis. Either would be staging posts on the road to euro membership. None of the options are palatable, which is perhaps why we have not seen a currency plan.”

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '21 - 6:42am

    As Joe has just demonstrated, there is no shortage of highly paid, and neoliberally inclined, economics editors of Establishment newspapers who are prepared to mislead in order to try to keep the Union intact.

    Contrary to his claim, it wouldn’t take long for an independent Scotland to establish its own currency. Scotland already has its own banknotes which could be redesignated in a new Scottish currency. When Slovakia and the Czech Republic split from the old Czechoslovakia the currencies were separated by simply overstamping existing banknotes. This can be done in a matter of weeks if not days.

    Most money is digital and so the conversion would be even quicker. Anyone living north of the border would go to bed one day with UK pounds in their bank account and wake up the next with Scottish pounds instead.

    The only valid point that David Smith makes is about the importance of having a currency plan. The only viable one, for an independent Scotland, is to go it alone with its own Scottish currency. If Scottish people don’t want to do that they don’t really want independence in any case and should settle for something like ‘Devo max’.

  • Brad Barrows 23rd Aug '21 - 8:33am

    You have made a claim (“English subsidies”). I have challenged the claim as false on the basis that England does not have a fiscal surplus with which to subsidise any other country of the UK. The onus is now on you to quote the figures that prove that a) England does have a fiscal surplus, and b) part of that fiscal surplus has been transferred to Scotland to offset our fiscal deficit. Provide that evidence, contrary to my understanding of the facts, and I will happily apologise to you for my error.

  • David Evans 23rd Aug '21 - 8:43am

    @Brad Burrows – I note your comment “It is true that Scotland has had a proportionately larger deficit in the last number of years but that followed a long period of Scotland subsidising the rest of the UK.” but see no basis for it in fact. Can you explain?

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '21 - 9:31am

    @ Brad Burrows,

    “England does not have a fiscal surplus with which to subsidise any other country of the UK.”

    You seem hung up on this point. The USA doesn’t have a fiscal surplus but does this mean it doesn’t have the means to ‘subsidise’ other poorer countries if it chooses to? It might just mean , but not necessarily, that it has to run a slightly larger deficit than it would have done otherwise. The US govt does regularly stump up a few billion for aid in places like Puerto Rico and Haiti for instance.

    But as I have said previously, the word ‘subsidy’ isn’t appropriate for what needs to happen in any common currency union. They can only function effectively as fiscal transfer unions and there will always be an element of imbalance.

    This is a point so far resisted by various German govts in connection with the EU and eurozone. But some in the EU do seem to appreciate the need to do what it takes to make the euro work properly.


  • Brad Barrows: As others have pointed out the UK Government does not have to have a fiscal surplus to make payments when it can borrow to do so. I have no wish to see English rule imposed on Scotland if it wishes to be an independent country just as I do not want England to rule the Northern part of Ireland if the majority of its people wish to unite with Southern Ireland but just as I would prefer the land border in Ireland to be abolished I do not want a new land border to be created between England and Scotland as this will only create a paradise for bureaucrats and would be politicians and little or no benefit for ordinary people. I guess the next thing will be a demand for the ancient Anglo Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria etc to be re-established with more unnecessary layers of bureaucrats and politicians. Although the First Minister of Wales seems to be a competent person the principal effect of these devolved administrations seems to be pointless duplication and waste together with time consuming disputes. I used to be a keen supporter of devolution but now see the error of my ways, except perhaps where the majority of people in a certain area speak a different language and have major different cultural or religious traditions.

  • Brad Barrows 23rd Aug '21 - 6:58pm

    There is a difference between Scotland and the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdoms you name: Scotland exists as a continuing and distinct legal jurisdiction today whereas the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms you name are historical entities.

    As for your statement “the UK government does not have to have a fiscal surplus to make payments”, I trust this is not your response to my claim that ‘England’ does not have a fiscal surplus and therefore has no surplus to transfer. If it is, of course England is not an independent country and has no borrowing powers.

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '21 - 7:00pm

    Guess there are more people trapped in Peter’s web other than Brad and Joe.

    To return to something Ms Chamberlain mentioned at the end of her speech. What IS “Scotland’s Liberal future”? It might be better if we started by deciding what SCOTLAND’S future is, period. Another referendum, anyone?

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '21 - 11:26pm

    Brad Barrows,

    You say ” England is not an independent country and has no borrowing powers” which is true, but then earlier you said “You do realise that England has a budget deficit and therefore has no spare cash to subsidise any other country.” If it has no borrowing powers and not even a Government to do any borrowing or even present a budget, how can it be in deficit?

  • Brad Barrows 24th Aug '21 - 7:27am

    @Peter Martin
    Clever, but you know the answer to the question you are asking but I will indulge you by explaining it. England, though not independent, has public expenditure spent on it and on its behalf by the UK government and pays taxes to the UK government. Since total public sector spending is greater than the taxation paid, England has a fiscal deficit. That fiscal deficit is being covered by UK government borrowing. To be clear, Scotland is not subsidising England’s Fiscal Deficit – Scotland, like England, has a Fiscal Deficit so no surplus to offset England’s deficit.

  • @Brad – I realise your comments on Scotland’s financial situation (and everything Scottish related) mirror that said in the SNP supporters’ bubble and prefer believe the words of Richard Murphy who had to admit under questioning at the Holyrood committee that he didn’t read the details of GERS, as his interest was for the purposes of ‘blogging’ not detailed review, however, I suggest you read further before accusing others of lying. Murphy is just angling for a job with the SNP government, but so far even the SNP admit that the GERS figures are sound. Promoting the GERS figures as sound (and an assumption of high future oil revenue) was central to their 2014 White Paper on independence.

    @Peter – I am fully aware that a country is not the same as a household, thanks. My point stands. An independent Scotland would not immediately become a currency issuing state, so quantitative easing and ‘printing money’ would not be available to us. If we did get a separate currency and started to print money, how would that impact wages and pensions and mortgages (and anyone paying rent to someone with a mortgage)? What currency would an independent Scotland use to repay the interest on loans? I totally accept that countries can borrow in a way that’s different to households, but what credit rating would a new country with no central bank have? How would the impact interest rates? What about capital flight?

    Creating a new currency is about far more than printing banknotes.

    “The government of Scotland would only need to raise taxes and cut spending if it had inflation problems”. Is that all? By how much? If we’re raising taxes, I’d rather it went towards more public spending. I don’t want to cut public spending. But you are right that this is the kind of thing that should be presented

    Brad is partially right on the history of the ‘fiscal transfer’. During the period of ‘peak oil’ Scotland was a net contributor to the Union, and it was those figures used by many nationalists to claim Scotland would be richer if we cut our ties with the rest of the UK. But as is always the case with these things, it’s all about where you choose to draw your boundaries. If you pick your start date as the beginning of the oil boom and end it before the oil price dipped, then it paints a picture that isn’t representative of our whole shared history or the future.

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug '21 - 9:12am

    You are now saying we can divide up the UK into various regions and some will be in less deficit that others. I suspect some wealthy parts of the London and the SE may be in surplus but I don’t know if the figures exist to show this. This is a valid way of looking at the fiscal position throughout the country and is what I assumed you were doing initially when I suggested England was overall less in deficit that Scotland.

    So I’m not sure why you then launched into saying that England has “no borrowing powers” etc. Yes England does but they are largely conducted via its position as the most populous nation in the UK.

    This variation will also apply within England. The less affluent areas will be more in deficit than the more prosperous ones. The same thing happens in every common currency union. Words like ‘subsidy’ , ‘subsidise’ etc are divisive and should be avoided. Especially when national feelings are involved. We are simply observing that the wealthy pay more, or should pay more, in taxes than the less affluent.

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug '21 - 9:22am

    @ Fiona,

    I also am aware that having your own currency is more that about printing banknotes but it’s not an insuperable problem which will take years. If Iceland (pop 300k) can do it then so can Scotland. The expertise to do it is there in a matter of weeks at the most.

    Having your own currency is an important part of what being independent is all about. The question is: Are Scottish people really up for it?

    Even if Scottish people want to give it all up at some point in the future by rejoining the EU and adopting the euro they’ll have to have their own working currency first. As Joe has explained keeping the pound is not an option.

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug ’21 – 9:12am:
    I suspect some wealthy parts of the London and the SE may be in surplus but I don’t know if the figures exist to show this.

    They are and the Office for National Statistics have the figures…

    ‘Country and regional public sector finances: financial year ending 2020’:

    Public sector revenue, expenditure and net fiscal balance on a country and regional basis.

  • Brad Barrows: I am aware that Scotland had a special status even after the Act of Union so that the Presbyterians, who were a sort of Christian version of the Taliban, could go on persecuting the Episcopalians and Roman Catholics.

  • @Peter, all polling shows that independence is much less popular if it comes with a new currency. And of course a new currency isn’t impossible, but it’s much, much tougher than “keeping the pound”.

    I argued with nationalists in 2014 that if we kept the pound (which was the preferred option) then we’d not be in control of our economic future. That many of the headline reasons for breaking up the UK would not happen. That side of things was swept under the carpet at the time, but now with some lobbying for Scexit in order to re-enter the EU, keeping the pound becomes impossible.

    Wealth distribution within the UK would be much better described on a regional basis, rather than the simplification of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In reality, the South East of England is “subsidising” most of the rest of the UK. The figures in the link I posted previously illustrates this nicely. With pre-pandemic figures.

    There can be multiple arguments about why London and the South-East are raising more revenue, and whether policy should change to spread it out more across the whole of the UK, including to the poorer parts of England. If you were to repeat that analysis within Scotland you’d see something similar with Edinburgh being the “wealth generator”. That comes in part due to being the 2nd largest financial centre in the UK. Again, we can argue about our reliance on the financial markets just as we argue about our reliance on North Sea oil. But we should be under no illusion that if Scotland were to leave the UK, many financial institutions would leave Scotland.

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug '21 - 3:29pm

    @ Fiona,

    If I wanted to be cynical I could suggest that Lib Dems should push the line that an independent Scotland will have to have its own currency to minimise the pro-independence vote. However, I do believe this is simply being honest with Scottish voters.

    As we all agree, if Scotland wants to rejoin the EU it cannot do so under existing rules and keep or peg its new currency to the pound. I wouldn’t be at all surprised, though, if EU came up with some way around this obstacle if the prize was to get Scotland back into the fold. I’m guessing that the SNP are looking to secure some agreement with the EU which is why they aren’t staking out their position too firmly at the moment.

    It still remains the case, though, that unless the EU puts in the same amount of money as Westminster does currently then the Scottish economy will go into a tailspin ‘Greek style’ as the Government chases its tail with a combination of increased taxes and reduced spending in a bid to reduce an unreducible deficit. It would be making the same mistake that Ireland made for decades. The Irish solution to unemployment was to export its well educated young people to Europe, the UK, Australia, the USA etc and it will be the same story too unless the Scottish government has full fiscal and monetary control of its currency.

    It’s possible that some Scottish financial institutions will move to London or Zurich or wherever but that’s not going to be a big issue. Others will come in to take their place. Unemployed bankers aren’t likely to riot or become involved in extreme sectarianism. The big danger is a that a depressed Scottish economy will give rise to a near civil war situation as sectarian divisions rise to the fore in Scottish politics.

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