Tuesday, September 16, 2014
A different kind of politics - and not in a good way
Posted by David Smith at 03:45 PM
Category: Thoughts and responses

The Scottish referendum campaign has engaged people in politics as never before, it is said, and this is a welcome and different kind of politics. It is, of course, welcome that voters in Scotland are engaged and mainly intend to vote on what is the most important issue they will ever vote on.

But it is also a different kind of politics in another, less welcome, way. In general elections, the political parties are required to come out with detailed manifesto plans. Spending commitments are carefully costed, and holes in their policies are teased out and exposed by the other parties or by the press. This does not stop politicians keeping unpleasant surprises until after they are elected, but it is a good form of scrutiny.

In Scotland we are seeing something very different. The Scottish Nationalists, despite being the governing party, gloss over enormous holes in their policies, and accuse anybody who exposes them as being biased or scaremongering. And, it seems, escape serious scrutiny. If the vote were won on Thursday on that basis, far from being good for democracy would be a terrible advert for it.

Among those holes:

- Scotland has a bigger budget deficit than the rest of the UK now, has averaged a bigger budget deficit for the past 25 years (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland). That deficit will have widened relative to the UK in 2013-14, and will widen further in coming years.

- There will thus need to be more austerity with independence, alongside higher taxes, in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK.

- Even with oil, Scotland pays a smaller share of taxation, 9%, than in gets in spending, 9.3%.

- The fantasy of the NHS, already devolved, 'only being safe with independence'.

- There will be no currency union with the rest of the UK.

- If Scotland were to renege on its debts it would be a pariah in the markets and would be unlikely to be admitted to the EU. EU membership will, in any event, be a complex and lengthy negotiation.

These are not small points, but they are glossed over in the SNP's "fact-free" campaign. For sensible views, see the National Institute here, and the LSE's John Van Reenen here.