Cameron is unwittingly preparing the way for Scotland to become independent

Robert Henderson

All the signs are that the incoming Tory government is  going to pander incontinently  to the Scottish National Party (SNP)  and grant ever greater devolved  powers to Scotland, viz Cameron saying  post-election  “In Scotland our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world, with important powers over taxation”, while  the newly appointed  Scottish Secretary  David  Mundell  speaks of the possibility of  powers for Scotland  greater than those recommended by the Smith Commission  after the NO vote in the Scottish independence referendum. There are even hints that full fiscal autonomy – the ability to set and collect all taxes in Scotland and decide how to spend the money raised – might be on the cards with Nicola Sturgeon saying the SNP would vote for it if it was offered and  the  Tory ex-Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth has advocated a White Paper on the subject.

The problem with appeasement is that it can never be a strategy only a tactic to buy time.  This is because any concession is viewed as a sign of weakness and  encourages the appeased to demand more and more. What Cameron and his fellow  supposedly  pro-union appeasers of Scotland do not  give any sign of understanding is that each granting of extra powers to the Scotland is preparing the country for eventual independence, because the more power a devolved government has the greater confidence  the politicians in the devolved region will have that they can go it alone.  As things are going,  there will quite soon  come  a point where  the SNP will be able to say to  fainthearted voters , look, we are virtually independent now so  there is nothing to fear from independence.

The reasoning of those  unionists who support   new tax raising  powers for Scotland is that if the Scottish parliament  has to raise much of the money their government spends it will  cause  the attitude of  both politicians and the public in Scotland to change, with the politicians behaving prudently or facing the wrath of the electors, who would cease blaming the UK government and become disenchanted with the SNP.

This is pie-in-the-sky. If the SNP get anything short of full fiscal autonomy they will continue to blame the UK government for underfunding  Scotland. The massive preferential Treasury funding which Scotland receives compared with England (currently worth around £9 billion pa) will show this to be a lie,  but SNP supporters and Scots more widely will eagerly swallow the lie.   Moreover, it will be easy for the SNP to fudge the matter  in public debate,  because if Scotland gets  substantial powers to  raise taxes , the  Barnett Formula (which creates the higher per capita Treasury payments to Scotland) will be adjusted to reduce the amount of UK Treasury  funding  that Scotland receives.  The SNP will inevitably  claim any reduction is unfair.  They will also dispute how much taxpayers’ money  goes on  what might be termed UK spending, things such as defence and foreign policy.

If full fiscal autonomy is given to Scotland the same general problem would  arise, but in an even more extreme form because the Barnet Formula would be scrapped.  This would result in a considerable revenue shortfall  for the Scottish government. Not only would there be arguments between Scotland and Westminster about what would then  be  de facto federal measures – defence, foreign policy, the financing of the national UK debt, the management of the Pound  and so on –  but disputes over Oil and Gas revenues and  things such as the distribution of public money to pay for the administration of the domestic UK national civil service.

The dangers of devolved public debt

Devolving serious  tax and spending powers to Scotland would carry grave risks for the rest of the UK.  A Scottish government might well be reckless in its spending and run up large debts.  This could happen even if no formal further borrowing powers were given to Scotland because policies for Scotland would be based on estimates of future tax revenue.  These estimates could be seriously wrong if the SNP’s absurdly optimistic  predictions  over North Sea Oil and Gas tax revenue  are anything to go by. If serious  formal borrowing powers are  given to Scotland  the risk of overspending and large Scottish debts would be even greater .

These are not fanciful fears.  Spain stands as a salutary  example of what can happen when devolved power allows regional governments to run up debts. A significant part of  Spain’s present economic problems stem from the huge debts the 17 regional governments in Spain ran up prior to the present Eurozone crisis.

The Smith Commission proposals for further devolution to Scotland  (see p 23 onwards)  provide for a good deal of Scottish control over  fiscal matters . These proposals  have been broadly accepted by Cameron’s government. They include the following borrowing  proposals:

(5) Borrowing Powers: to reflect the additional economic risks, including volatility of tax revenues, that the Scottish Government will have to manage when further financial responsibilities are devolved, Scotland’s fiscal framework should provide sufficient, additional borrowing powers to ensure budgetary stability and  provide safeguards to smooth Scottish public spending in the event of economic shocks, consistent with a sustainable overall UK fiscal framework. The Scottish Government should also have sufficient borrowing powers to support capital investment, consistent with a sustainable overall UK fiscal framework. The Scottish and UK Governments should consider the merits of undertaking such capital borrowing via a prudential borrowing regime consistent with a sustainable overall UK framework.

There is untold opportunity for reckless behaviour there.  The danger is that Scotland will run up debts they cannot service let alone pay off and in those circumstances as happened in Spain, the central UK government (effectively the English taxpayer) t would have to bail Scotland out.

Nor would the dangers for England stop there. The effect of  less UK control of  taxation and Scottish borrowing would have a depressive  effect on the international credit worthiness of the UK as a whole  because the rest of the world would see that an element of new potential risk and uncertainty  had been introduced to the UK economy..

Leave the SNP to twist in the wind

The comprehensive  way to deal with the SNP threat would be to set up an English Parliament. That would immediately dissolve  SNP influence over the rest of the UK  both for  now and the future. However, there is no realistic prospect of an English Parliament  in the near future.  (The Conservative proposal for English votes for  English laws is no substitute for an English Parliament although  it is a stepping stone to one).  Short of an English Parliament  what could be done to nullify  SNP  influence?  The answer is ignore them because  the great enemy of the SNP is  time.

There is a kind of collective madness amongst the Scots at present. Not all Scots by any means, but at least half of the adult Scots population. From England it may seem that Scotland is a land of milk and honey because of the incessant reports of the Scots getting heaps of public goodies denied to England ,  such as no university tuition fees and  free  personal care for the elderly.  But the truth is that the SNP is struggling to fund such things even with the £9 billion or so extra they get from the Treasury each year. Look at any of the Scottish national papers and you will find every day a litany of complaint about poor public service or the  incontinent waste of money on projects such as the Edinburgh tram system fiasco.  Importantly, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated that the SNP manifesto  contained larger spending cuts than Labour. If true, those are rather nasty pigeons coming home  to roost in the next year.

The way to tackle the SNP  is to give them nothing  and plenty of it for the next few years so that there is time to allow the economic mess that the SNP is creating in Scotland to come to its full fruition, time to  allow the many disturbingly authoritarian measures they have put in place  such as the centralisation of Scottish Police in a single national police force, the creation of a state guardian for every child in Scotland  and the banning of Auld Firm chants and songs to begin to  seriously worry people.    Sooner or later the Scots will start  blaming the SNP for their policy failures and misrepresentations  and begin chaffing against the growing restrictions on their  liberty. That will be the beginning of the end of  the SNP as a hugely dominant political force in Scotland.

The really angering thing about the dangerous course the Cameron government seems set on taking is that it is completely unnecessary because the SNP are powerless in the present House of Commons.  It smacks of political masochism.

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17 Responses to Cameron is unwittingly preparing the way for Scotland to become independent

  1. Peter Brown says:

    I do not necessarily agree that we will see an independent Scotland. When the idea of full fiscal powers was mooted to Nicola Sturgeon by Andrew Marr, she immediately started to back pedal and produce impediments to such an agreement and that it should be spread over several years. Had Scotland voted for independence, then such fiscal autonomy would have been taken up immediately.

    I do believe that she has finally realised that the SNP in particular and Scotland in general do not have the assets with which to run an economy. What credence can you possible give to the First Minister of an independent Scotland whose answer to the point that the bottom had dropped out of the oil market and left an enormous hole in an economy based mainly on oil revenuces was ‘it does not matter because it is effecting every other country’.

    • Peter – You may well be right about Sturgeon realising that Scotland’s economy is a mess. However, that does not mean she would not go along with full fiscal autonomy because if it is offered she might well feel she dare not refuse it because of the effect that would have on SNP supporters.

      • Peter Brown says:

        I doubt that Robert. Should she do so, and the likely happens, that would certainly be the death knell for the SNP should it take Scotland into penury. Do not forget, 24% of jobs in Scotland nationally, rising to 30% in the North are public sector. Without a viable private sector failing to procure substantial tax revenue would certainly drive Scotland to bankruptcy in a very short time.

        In a time when jobs in the Scottish shipyards are severely being affected by migrant workers, more substantial job losses would very soon drive people onto the streets.

  2. david brown says:

    One way the SNP could blackmail the London Government to extort special terms. They could say that an independent Scotland will sign up for the EU Scheveningen agreement . So that Scotland would have fully open borders with France, Netherlands and Italy.

    • Peter Brown says:

      Schengen will not be a problem in my estimation because I believe it will be a very long time before the issue of another referendum on ‘independence’ will occur in Scotland. Even should it that there is one, I doubt also that Scotland would join the EU independently because migrant labour is already seriously affecting industrial wages and I doubt that the Scottish workforce would allow an application to join.

      The Scots may put up with the Status Quo, but it is mainly the political elite that wish to be in the EU but it is the lower paid that will bear the brunt of it as they are already beginning to see.

    • Scotland could not do that legally because immigration is a reserved power to Westminster. Moreover, on a subject such free movement, the EU would not deal with what is a region rather than an EU state.

      • david brown says:

        not if the SNP make Scotland an EU member state which is stated policy, They could then allow mass immigration into Scotland knowing the migrants would then cross the border into England.

      • The EU cannot do it without Scotland first becoming independent.

      • Antony says:

        The non-white population of Scotland increased 62% in a decade according to the London Independent [6th October 2006] yet the largest non-white group even then, Pakistanis, numbered a laughable 31,793 people or a mere two thirds of one per cent (0.63 per cent). The second biggest was Chinese at 16,310 people or just one third of one per cent (0.3 per cent). Scotland’s second largest religious group ten years ago was Muslim at less than 1% of the population. Isn’t life grand? English commentators should be flogged who aid concealment of this scam by continually referring to immigration as ‘British’. As if this were not enough books are now deflecting scrutiny by exaggerating the country’s intake [publications written by pusillanimous Englishmen attached to ‘think-tanks’ as often as not, like the author of an article here which plays much the same game]:

        Asylum seekers fare just as badly. When Blair’s efforts to re-settle a couple of hundred in Glasgow in 1999 met with resistance the BBC steered us away from suspicions of racism with a portrayal of ‘impoverished Britons defending overstretched resources’. Blair went far beyond apologizing to the people of Glasgow and Scotland. He pledged never to repeat the exercise [one of the few promises he kept]. Plans for three new processing centres to be built in the English countryside were announced within weeks. By 2003 the BBC was reporting Scottish officialdom’s flat refusal to process any asylum applications at all. Claimants, said human rights activists, were being ‘told to go south’.

        Scottish ‘Britons’ like to pick and choose their immigrants, a privilege we’re denied. Look at efforts to combat falling population levels by attracting settlers from eastern Europe over the last thirty years or so [yes, some of us at least have spotted this one]. It seems an odd sort of strategy, or at least it does if you’re unfamiliar with the Declaration of Arbroath’s assertion of Scythian ancestry originating in what is more or less modern-day Ukraine [so much for the ‘celtic’ sleight of hand]. It’s a subject seldom publicly discussed as they prefer by and large to rely on the charmless misdirection of people like old sly-boots Charles Kennedy to get them off the hook. The occasion when, suitably refreshed no doubt, Kennedy spoke to the Commons of his country’s ‘proud participation’ in ‘Britain’s successful multicultural experiment’ will live long in the memory. It was Scottish politicians who used public office to pour immigrants into England after 1997 and the same crowd who worked just as diligently behind the scenes to keep them there.

        David Brown is probably correct therefore. Anyone familiar with EU regional policy and the dismemberment of England now gathering pace with devolved ‘economic powerhouse’ cities such as Manchester must also know that England’s role as a resource to be plundered at will means she will never herself be permitted any sort of independence by a largely foreign governing elite that betrays us as every turn and depends on money from the tax returns she provides to fund their lavish personal lives. Not even supposed ‘conservative’ writers like Peter Hitchens, habitual liar that he is, can relinquish the idea of English legitimacy as a function of Scottish [and everyone else’s] welfare.

        Salmond claims that if the experiment with ‘independence’ [and it is nothing of the sort] goes wrong they will simply rejoin the union. It must be nice to have everything your own way. Then again union has been sold to us traditionally as a safeguard against foreign mischief-making, that it closed a ‘back door into England’, and this was always a lie. It was union itself that created the back door. That’s because the purpose of union is and always was the destruction of England, in which regard the enthusiasm of Scottish politicians at Westminster for the role of willing executioner is impressive to say the least. It’s lucky for these grasping, preening, covetous blowhards they have a neighbour as dozy and as apathetic as the English or they might be in trouble [again].

        Why should be concerned to preserve a parasite in his nest? Let them go.

      • I am afraid you are wrong about the closing of the back door to England. This was the most pressing of the reasons why the Union took place. Time and again, over many centuries, the Scotch either in concert with allies such as the French or simply because England was fighting a continental or colonial enemy, took advantage of those circumstances to attack England.

      • I am afraid you are wrong about the closing of the back door to England. This was the most pressing of the reasons why the Union took place. Time and again, over many centuries, the Scotch either in concert with allies such as the French or simply because England was fighting a continental or colonial enemy, took advantage of those circumstances to attack England.

      • Antony says:

        It is my understanding of ‘English votes for English laws’, furthermore, that it provides for discussion and decision-making but does not preclude a final Commons vote involving such luminaries at the Right Honourable Member for IRA-South or, as TWH Crosland has it, the ‘bandy-legged lout from Tullietudlescleugh’. Discussing ‘fair votes’ for England is pure window-dressing. The United Kingdom was never meant to survive. EU regional planning and directives make this self-evident. Cameron’s strategy may be questionable but his ambitions are the same. He isn’t playing fast and loose. He’s just doing what he’s told.

  3. DICK R says:

    Give them ‘independence’ now ,we are sick and tired of their continuous bellyaching let them go snivelling to their masters in the EUSSR volkscommissariat ,who will exact a terrible price for their support ,no doubt the remnants of their oil reserves will be declared a common European resource and they will be forced to accept hundreds of thousands of ‘asylum seekers’on condition of being admitted into the dictatorship of the Eurozone ,good riddance !

  4. “Peter Brown says:
    May 15, 2015 at 10:18 pm (Edit)
    I doubt that Robert. Should she do so, and the likely happens, that would certainly be the death knell for the SNP should it take Scotland into penury.”

    I quite agree, but politicians often allow themselves to be trapped into disastrous policies… RH

  5. Peter Brown says:

    Robert, on an entirely different matter; may I have your permission to reproduce your essay: ‘See mass migration for what it is – invasion’ on our website –

  6. Pingback: What can we learn from the  2015 British General Election? | Living In A Madhouse

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