Saturday , May 25 2024

Scotland is poorer because of Sturgeon not Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon thinks the wicked Tories came up with a cunning plan to stop Scotland becoming independent. They invented Brexit, which was designed to make Scotland poorer and more dependent on the UK. Having done their worst to make Scotland poorer these despicable Tories now dare to say we can’t afford separation.

Sturgeon tries to present herself as the down to earth grown up who runs Scotland with her reasonableness. But anyone who engages with Scottish nationalists realises quickly that there are rather more cranks and conspiracy theorists than at a convention for those who refuse to believe that the Moon landings took place because JFK was not shot and the footage was faked by the CIA. Does she really believe this stuff?

The Conservative Government did not want Brexit. It campaigned against it. The whole British establishment argued against Leave, but the voters didn’t listen. It is true that people like me argued for Brexit as it would make Scottish independence harder to achieve, but this argument was dismissed at the time. The opposite was held to be true by Remainers that Brexit would make Scottish independence more likely. It is only now years after the event when it has become apparent how difficult Brexit makes Scottish independence, that even Sturgeon has come round to this thinking. But it is not for the reasons she suggests.

We voted to leave the EU in 2016. We actually left in January 2020. The transition period ended in December 2020. So, we have had a little over 8 months completely outside of the EU and the transition. How does Sturgeon know that Brexit has made Scotland poorer? The UK growth rate in the second quarter of 2021 was 22%.

The ten-year growth rate of the UK economy is like a flat line until we reach 2020. The vote to leave the EU doesn’t even cause a blip. It’s only when we reach 2020 that there is an enormous dip greater than anything seen in decades. But this had nothing whatsoever to do with leaving the EU.

Whatever David Cameron and George Osborne dreamed up to convince us to vote Remain, it was as nothing compared to the pandemic. Whether we had voted to Leave or Remain we would have had the most enormous economic downturn, because we were all forced to stay at home. Leaving the EU looks like a rounding error compared to us being unable to go to work.

What effect will leaving the EU have on the UK economy in the long term? It’s far too early to tell. The economic argument for staying or leaving is reasonably balanced.

Being a member of the EU gave us access to the EU’s single market. But there was a catch. We had to pay a membership fee and we could not trade freely with anyone the EU did not have a trade deal with. Instead, we had to pay the Common External Tariff. We also had to agree to whatever rules and regulations the EU imposed on our economy.

Being outside the EU means we can in theory trade freely with everyone outside the EU, plus as a consequence of the deal we made with the EU we can still trade more or less freely with EU member states. We no longer pay the EU a fee, nor do we have to pay the Common External Tarriff and we no longer have to follow EU rules though we can do so if we wish.

The balance is between complete free trade with the EU versus the possibility of trading freely with the rest of the world. The EU is geographically nearer to us and it will take time for us to develop free trade deals with the rest of the world. But in the long run there is no reason to suppose that Brexit will make either the UK or Scotland poorer.

Theoretically the UK could become a freer, less regulated economy with more free trade deals than the EU. This would make us more prosperous. Whether it happens is a matter for Government and business.

Sturgeon complains that Brexit has led to a decline in EU migration, which Scotland needs. But net migration has increased sharply to the UK since 2019. Moreover, there is free movement within the UK and Sturgeon could set out to welcome some of the 60 million British citizens who live outside Scotland. For some strange reason she is reluctant to do so.

There were 715,000 migrants to the UK in 2020. How many more does Sturgeon need to fill jobs in Scotland? It would take approximately 7 years for this number of migrants to double the Scottish population, so if Sturgeon is feeling deprived all she has to do is attract them to Scotland or is it that she only wants Europeans?

The truth is that Brexit has not made Scotland poorer. Sturgeon is merely using it because she hopes Remainers in Scotland are still angry about the UK leaving even though Scotland voted to stay.

But unfortunately, this argument can also be applied to a Scottish independence referendum. Why should the Borders or Shetland be dragged out of the UK against it’s will? If Sturgeon would not allow a part of Scotland to have a vote on separation, why should the British Government allow a part of the UK such a vote? If it democratic to disallow a vote in the Borders even if 99% of voters wanted to stay, then it can hardly matter how many vote for the SNP. There is nothing undemocratic about saying No. Sturgeon would do likewise in Scotland.

The real cause of Scotland’s running a deficit over 20% is that Sturgeon’s Government spends more than it earns. It would be perfectly possible for the SNP Government to live within its means, but this would involve budgeting rather than merely relying on the UK Treasury to send us free money every year.

Sturgeon’s popularity is in part because she gives Scots ever increasing public spending and free things that English people have to pay for. The Scottish electorate thinks that living within your means is something for those wicked Tories. So, if Sturgeon tried to cut spending, she’d be rapidly called a yellow Tory. But it is this and this alone that makes Scotland unable to afford independence. It is this also that makes us poorer economically.

The UK is safe so long as Sturgeon keeps splurging and wasting public money on ships that won’t sail and airports no one wants. The only danger is if Scottish nationalists grow up, accept that we spend more than we earn and resolve to do something about it. But that is as likely as finding JFK alive and well on the Moon.

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog:

About Effie Deans

Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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