29 June 2015

The Overblown and The Underspend


This time last year at the height of the Referendum campaign, the YES campaign’s political establishment were trying to persuade voters of the credibility of their case by claiming that the change involved in Scotland becoming independent would be no real risk at all.

The Queen would remain head of state; Scots could keep using the £, it was asserted; and  revenues from oil at $113 a barrel on average would securely underpin the economy of an independent Scotland, according to the SNP Government’s White Paper on Independence –oil revenues with Big Numbers.

The months since the Referendum have been a time of different Big Numbers, numbers that show the present-day prospects of that rosy picture of Scotland portrayed last year to be a shadow of last year’s risk-free independent state.

The most recent numbers came last week from the SNP Government itself which finally published its projected revenues from oil compared with the figures in its Independence White Paper, and they admit to an enormous 85 per cent reduction in value.

That would be exceptionally bad news for the people of Scotland if Full Fiscal Autonomy were forced upon them.

In reality Full Fiscal Autonomy would mean large tax rises and prodigious cuts in public expenditure that would spell disaster for public services such as health , education and local government.

There have been other Big Numbers that spell big trouble for the public sector in Scotland.

Earlier this year, before the Scottish Government’s reluctant release of their forecast of oil revenues, figures were released that indicated a huge underspend by them on public services in Scotland of £444 million in the last financial year.

That is a massive amount of money under any circumstances.

At a time when our health service, education , and housing are in critical need of immediate access to more finance, and when huge reductions in the number employed in the public sector have diminished the quality of its service all across Scotland, now is not the time for the Scottish Government to be hoarding public money in Edinburgh.

While Scottish Government rhetoric is anti-austerity, the reality experienced by many people in Scotland is something different.

They face the daily consequences of the underspending, in the knowledge that the Scottish Government’s present political objective is built on the overblown economic “dividend” of Full Fiscal Autonomy.

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