Friday, 17 April 2015

Full Fiscal Fantasy

Martin Wolf, writing in yesterday's FT, says "The SNP has no interest in my country’s success. It cares only about what it can extract from us." He asks "how long can the union between Scotland and the rest of the UK survive?" He then rails against Alex Salmond's call for fiscal autonomy and the principle of "no detriment" to Scotland. He calls this a "one-sided bargain" that heavily favours Scotland, omitting to mention that the "no detriment" meme comes not from Salmond, but from the collective (Tory-Lab-Lib and SNP) voice of the Smith Commission, set up after the September 2014 Referendum.

Mr Wolf wrote passionately before the 2014 Referendum about his love for Scotland; "if Scotland were to depart I would lose an important part of myself". He is a brilliant, well-researched writer. So it's surprising to see him launching this humdinger against an idea that is still half-formed.

We don't yet have any idea what "full fiscal autonomy" (FFA) really means. Do we get FFA with £1,468.5 billion [1] of public sector debt? In other words, will taxpayers in Scotland have to cough up the interest payments for the massive debt built up by Westminster governments since the 1970s? Do we get FFA with Trident? Will Scottish tax income be used to buy the £100 billion bombs in Faslane? How will Marks & Spencer (or any other company operating across England and Scotland) be taxed on profits?

Above all, will we get FFA with some compensatory mechanism for the years of London ravaging the Scottish economy? Years of oil from Scottish waters -used to prop up the City of London - and generations of Scottish children growing up in poverty? To re-write Mr Wolf's subhead; "Westminster has no interest in my country’s success. It cares only about what it can extract from us."

There are so many questions about how FFA might work, how it might be negotiated in a Government whose composition we do not yet know. To argue against FFA is to argue against a phantom, a fantasy, a pile of what-ifs.

But the desire for full fiscal autonomy is a sign of Scotland growing up. We've had enough of being used and abused by Westminster; it is time for Scotland to step up and out, loud and proud. We're going to have to negotiate how that works, how Westminster can compensate Scotland for the years of abuse.

And that is why, Mr Wolf, we need a strong Team Scotland, led by the SNP, in Westminster come 8th May.

1 UK public sector debt was 79.6% of GDP at the end of February 2015. Source:


  1. Methinks Mr. Wolf protests too much. Boyhered and bewildered he is.

  2. Thanks Kailyard Rules for the comment. Normally Mr Wolf is pretty objective, but this time he has gone off the rails.