24 February 2007

A Case for Independence Part 1

This is the first of three posts on my own approach to independence. It's not a definitive nor an authoritative look at the subject, but a collection of my thoughts so that readers can get a feel for where I'm coming from.

Independence and the Economy

Much of the battleground in this election between Labour and the SNP is over the economics of independence, and whether Scotland can afford to go it alone. Both sides are trotting out experts and we have been dragged into a 'My statistics are bigger than your statistics' row.

I am not an expert, I am not an economist, and I am not a statistican. But I can tell you two clear things:

1. Scotland will not transform into a land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold should independence be declared.

2. Scotland will not turn into a third-world country where five year olds work in shoe factories for $1 a day should independence be declared.

The fact is, little will change overnight: it'll be the actions of a post-independence government that influences matters. They might get things right, they might get things wrong, but to be fair, that's true of the UK Government as well. So what's the biggest economic bonus?

Answer: when trouble does come, an independent government will be better equipped to respond to it than under the present system.

The main Unionist argument these days is to cite globalisation and the rise of free trade without barriers as a reason why Scottish independence would run against the current tides of global geo-politics. Now, free trade can be maintained through continued membership of the European Union (or at the very least, membership of EFTA). As for globalisation? It's true that the world is getting smaller, but interconnectivity is not the same as homogeneity.

The best example of this is five years ago, in the middle of the so-called 'global downturn'. Gordon Brown liked to tell us all how the UK had avoided the sharpest effects of it. But at this time, Scotland entered a brief period of recession, thanks to the multinational technology companies based in Scotland feeling the pinch. They had to cut back, and so they reduced the investment they had in Scotland, and while Brown (who represents a Fife constituency, remember) would be trumpeting the UK's economic success on Page 4 of a newspaper, there would be reports of a factory closure in Bathgate on Page 5. Not only did the UK government fail to solve a problem, they didn't even seem to notice that there was one.

So Independence, for me, isn't about creating a glorious, golden Scotland. It's about making sure that Scotland is capable of responding to what is thrown at it, rather than waiting for someone else to sort out the mess.

(Update: Here's Part Two)


doctorvee said...

So you think it is not possible that an independent Scotland could see certain areas of Scotland in a recession while the nation as a whole is doing okay?

Will said...

It's certainly possible (just as it is now), but I think that an independent Scotland could respond better: if the UK Government can seemingly fail to notice that Scotland on the whole has gone into recession (or notice, but fail to act), then what hope does an individual area of Scotland have under the status quo?

Basically, I believe that in terms of policies and management, an Edinburgh government is no more or less likely to perform well than the UK government, but is at least in a better position to respond to challenges at the Scottish level.

Angry Steve said...

Do you think we could run our own affairs when the current incarnation of the Scottish Parliament is such a joke?

Will said...

Well, the current quality of Scotland's politicians is possibly the greatest argument against independence right now, I have to admit.

On the other hand, not everyone is a total muppet, and an independent Scotland would get a few of the sharper Westminster MPs back as well. Mind you, there's quite a lot of dreck being sent to London!

Also, there's not really much in the way of outright incompetence: most politicians have sort of settled into a sort of grey, dull, anonymity which might not set the heather alight, but gets things done.

Angry Steve said...

Well, roll on the benevolent dictatorship then. With me as the dictator. Obviously.

Will said...

I think we both know that you have as much chance of being a benevolent dictator as I do!

You'll notice that it's the word 'benevolent' I'm quibbling over. Even so, I can think of worse people to preside over a reign of terror!

Ewan Watt said...

Good stuff. An honest view of 'how things could be'.

Roger Thomas said...

Excellent. You have put in another form of words, things I have been writing about and trying to explain from another perspective. That of ecological, systems and entropy analysis.