SNP’s policy pants are wearing thin

That’s what happens when you fly by the seat of your pants and put policy formulation off until tomorrow.  Eventually, the pants wear out and tomorrow arrives.

And so it has come to pass for the SNP which is, according to the Scotland on Sunday, shying away from the Eurozone.  Eddie Barnes’s piece suggests the Scottish Government is opposed to proposals from Germany and France to harmonise taxes such as corporation tax.  Apparently, “SNP sources” have also ruled out the idea of a separate Scottish currency post-independence.  Keeping the pound is now cited by SNP Ministers as the “stable position for an independent Scotland to adopt”.

When policy is made on the hoof, when central tenets of the SNP’s case for independence have not been revisited and honed to keep up with the times, this is the result.  What seems like a sensible piece of the policy jigsaw for governing now – as the demand for control over corporation tax is (leaving aside the debate around whether reducing it is good economic policy or bad in the current climate) – creates a mismatch in the jigsaw pieces for governing in the future.  If, as has been SNP policy since the late 1980s, independent Scotland is to take its seat at the table of European nations, it will have to satisfy the Copenhagen criteria:

Membership requires that candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate’s ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.”

I’ve put this latter phrase in bold to emphasise its importance, for this implies – and indeed, has meant to new members – joining the Euro and signing up to European wide fiscal measures, such as tax harmonisation.

The latter has come to the fore because of the Eurozone crisis, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposing greater fiscal integration as a solution to that crisis but also more prosaically, as the price the others must pay for their economies taking on much of the strain of bail-outs.  As well as harmonising tax rates for business, another measure proposed is the issue of Eurobonds which would enable, presumably the European Central Bank, to issue government bonds on all Eurozone members’ behalf, thereby allowing members to borrow at less punitive rates and tackle their indebtedness more effectively.

In a suitably ostrich-like statement, a Scottish Government spokesperson suggested that “the position on Eurobonds is an issue for the members of the Euro area.”  And with lancing insight, but a customary lack of detail, a solution was offered to those Euro area countries with “ongoing concerns”: “..promote growth and help individual countries take the necessary steps to restore their fiscal positions.”

But the position on Eurobonds is not just an issue for Eurozone members – if they come to pass, they will impact on everyone else’s economies too.  And with an SNP Government hoping to lead Scotland into independence in Europe, even if there is no comment to be made on current implications of such a policy, it would be nice to know what the Government – or rather the SNP – thinks of how Eurobonds might affect the economy of an independent Scotland, whether or not the Euro becomes our currency.

On one level this is all fanciful – who knows if we will even still have a Euro and a Eurozone by the time Scotland becomes independent.  But assuming there is still some form of central currency and economic union is still one of the central tenets of EU membership, the current muddy thinking on these issues by the SNP must be resolved, particularly as we move closer to the referendum.

If independent Scotland acceded directly to EU membership, there may be some scope for an opt-out from the Euro – as other existing members achieved, including the UK and Denmark when the currency was introduced.  Moreover, some new members were allowed to join the EU with everyone safe in the knowledge that their chances of satisfying the tests for adopting the Euro were precisely nil.

But continuing to fly by the seat of your pants in policy terms while hoping for a suitably soft landing is hardly likely to endear the Scottish people to voting yes for independence.  Folk want clarity on these kind of issues and the opportunity to make an informed choice.  They will want to know the implications of independence, big and small.  And they will want to know that all the pieces of the policy jigsaw are in place.

Perhaps not having to join the Euro might also result in not having to sign up for any other part of European fiscal policy.  Aye right.  A relatively wealthy member state seeking permission to do the economic hokey cokey is not going to go down well and Scotland lacks the political muscle to pull such opt-outs off.   And even suppose the other 27 member states – more by the time Scotland comes calling – agree to this, not joining the Euro and not signing up to harmonised tax rates surely undermines the whole exercise of membership.

If independent Scotland knocks on the EU’s door, asking to come in, but can we keep our own currency, not sign up to tax harmonisation and not have anything to say on things like Eurobonds, it’s not hard to imagine the other European state members replying with a puzzled look and asking why bother.

It all starts to look totally against the point of being part of a union.  Is this the intention of the SNP leadership?  One presumes not.  So why is it allowing woolly thinking on fiscal policy to create so many holes that they threaten to leave the policy of Independence in Europe utterly undone.  By accident or design, when we live in a world of global interdependence, how many Scots would be prepared to adopt a Little Scotlander approach to independence?  Indeed, how many SNP members would be happy with independence of that nature?

The SNP needs to stop flying by the seat of its pants.  Moreover, it needs to start repairing the policy holes that are emerging.  That involves stopping the day to day expediency required for government right now to get in the way of thinking through exactly why it is that Scotland should be independent in Europe and what coherent fiscal policy narrative is required to satisfy that aim.  One of the immediate solutions might be to start separating out Scottish Government positions and statements from SNP ones.


This is A Burdz Eye View’s 300th post.





21 thoughts on “SNP’s policy pants are wearing thin

  1. It’s not “flying by the seat of you pants” for governments and parties to have to adjust policy to meet changing realities. A few years ago independence in Europe and a gradual move to the Euro may have looked sensible for Scotland. Indeed, I seem to remember both Labour and the Lib Dems were fairly pro-Euro for the UK as a whole. Both policies look less sensible right now due to massive uncertainties within the EU. The Tories have always been split on the issue and their hard core want to push for coming out totally.

    If it now looks more sensible for an independence Scotland to follow the Nordic example, great. Let the SNP make that case for post-independence. But equally, the unionist parties still have to decide what the UK’s relationship will be to Europe as well – independence or not. What they decide will affect Scotland just as much, if not more, than the SNPs policy will do, especially if we vote “no”. But I guess they’re “flying by the seat of their pants” on that just as much. I don’t see any more uncertainty about Europe and our future in it with independence than in the UK.

  2. You won’t get any argument from me about lack of strategic thinking but I do think what you describe here is not the result of a lack of strategic thinking but the seemingly overwhelming desire of the SNP to be seen to be commenting on anything and everything.

    I agree with a lot of what has been said by others. The appeal of the EU is fading fast and indeed the SNP should be seriously considering alternatives to full EU membership and possibly be promoting new potential alliances based around the Nordic Council.

    I wonder if a new curreny based on a Nordic wide Kroner might be an option? It could not be dominated by any ‘centralist’ constituent in the way England dominates Sterling or the French/German axis dominates the Euro and would be founded on pretty mature, stable economies.

  3. The Scots are generally good at taking a hard objective look at reality. The EU has been disastrous for Scotland – our fishing and commercial industries decimated resulting in tens of thousands of jobs lost. This was all under UK and EU rules. It is time to get out of both as at present Scotland is still solvent. We subsidize both the UK and the EU.

    We should join the EFTA side of the European Economic Area just like Norway and Switzerland and be able to trade with all the states in Europe. By doing so we could participate in all the organisations within Europe that WE choose without the dictatorial bureaucracy from Brussels.

    We would be able to rebuild our fishing, farming and commercial industries and establish trading partnerships as WE consider necessary with whomsoever WE choose.

    The SDA have an excellent article in their website titled “Scotland in Europe” which is well worth reading as it gives you a well researched overview. Perhaps it would be helpful if the SNP and the SDA started to collaborate to fill up the gaps in the SNP policy portfolio.

  4. Holdtrue

    I too believe that Scotland should continue to be in Europe – but not in the undemocratic 27-state only EU. We should join the European Free Trade Area side of the EEA just like Norway and Switzerland. That way we can benefit from trading with all of Europe’s 56 states and regain control of our fishing, fishing and oil assets whilst sharing in the many benefits of Europe without the destructive influence of the EU bureaucrats. We would have the right to become involved within as many European organisations as WE choose.

  5. It’s the summer holidays still. The SNP will produce their policies as required, the independence debate hasn’t officvially begunand it would be best not to give the Brit nats info before the time is right.

    • Perhaps… so what were they do giving this info to a Scottish Sunday newspaper in the first place? I think there is still time to sort these kind of policies out but it won’t be done through throwaway remarks by spokespeople in Sunday newspapers. Proper debate and deliberation is required.

  6. I am a member of the SDA. Iposted the following on the 11.08.21 SoS – ‘SNP shies away from the Eurozone’

    SNP shies away from the Eurozone

    39 & 40 Beachdair, Diamond Springs 21/08/2011 04:52:37

    The SNP is beginning to get the real picture about the profoundly undemocratic, imperialistic and often incompetent European Union. But merely planning to stay out of the eurozone is not enough. Independent Scotland must stay out of the European Union entirely.

    The UK is a member of the European Union. Independent Scotland, a new state, would not automatically be a member. It might be immediately eligible for membership, but independent Scotland would be well-advised not to apply. The UK’s membership of the EU has long been disastrous for Scotland.

    EU membership is very expensive for Scotland. Research by the Scottish Democratic Alliance (SDA) indicates that Scotland’s £532 million average yearly contribution to the European Union shot up to £845 million in 2010, due largely to the Scottish proportion of the UK’s IMF and direct aid to the distressed eurozone. Scotland’s 2011 net contribution to the EU is more than £162 for every man, woman and bairn in the country, calculated after all “grants” have been taken into account.

    The EU takes this money, deducts its own huge overheads, and returns only a minute portion of the remainder to Scotland in “grants”. It is pure deceit to present these EU grants as some kind of advantage Scotland receives from EU membership, when they are only a tiny fraction of our own money being returned. How many jobs could be created with £532 million – to say nothing of £845 million?

    The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) alone is costing Scotland considerably in excess of £1,500 millions every single year in lost wealth creation. The EU has destroyed tens of thousands of jobs through the CFP. What the figures cannot reveal is the amount of personal tragedy and communal disruption that lie behind them: bankruptcies, the uprooting of individuals and families, the destruction of thriving communities with centuries-old cultural traditions and communal lives.

    Major harbours, like Lossiemouth, that were the focus of social and economic life twelve months in the year, are now marinas for a handful of yachts. One can imagine the reaction if Brussels had reduced the Spanish or French fishing fleets by two thirds simply to make way for incomers. And fishing is by no means as important to those countries as it is to Scotland.

    The European Union has effectively owned Scotland’s seas since the imposition of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 1973. Under the Lisbon Treaty, which is already in force, the EU controls all the “marine biological resources” (i.e. from whales and basking sharks down to the last frond of seaweed) in Scotland’s Exclusive Economic Zone seas. Under existing EU secondary legislation, all national waters right up to the beaches are due to come under exclusive EU fisheries competence from the end of 2012, and will be regulated under EU law and not Scots law. Since the Lisbon Treaty also transfers powers over energy to Brussels, fishing is obviously only the thin end of a wedge that will eventually see all marine resources coming under Brussels control.

    So much for Scotland’s oil…

    Independent Scotland should have nothing to do with the EU, but should conduct its business as a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) of the European Economic Area (EEA) as Norway and Switzerland have done.

  7. SNP’s policy pants are wearing thin

    This is nonsense and is just a unionist ploy to create confushion. No currency is stable anywhere in the world as they are just pretty pieces of paper being subsidised by people to keep governments in power.

    The Fed’s Secret Liquidity Lifelines

    Until currencies are linked to something tangible eg. gold silver then financial bubbles will continue as all the major banks are insolvent entities.

    So any currency decisions cannot be taken before Independence as that would be tantamount to madness.

    • The point is that the policy shifts, tweaks and omissions mean that strategically things do not join up – it is the lack of coherence that is the problem, not necessarily what the policy actually is. We want to remain in Europe but not adopt the currency or any of hte measures for greater fiscal integration. It just doesn’t stack up. And it’s the lack of forethought and constantly bouncing from one off the cuff statement on policy to another without thinking through the impact on other, existing ones that is the issue.

      Incidentally it doesn’t matter what you think – or even what I think either. We both know how we are going to vote in the referendum. But these are the kind of niggles and doubts that will cause all the people who are currently don’t knows to potentially shy away from voting yes – no one likes voting in a vacuum nor for fluidity.

      • Sorry but I can’t buy that in over 4 decades of wanting Independence never has currency disturbed my sleep and the only people who will take issue will be hard line Unionists trying to create unease. The pound in your pocket will still be worth a pound after Independence as it is FIAT money (worthless pieces of paper).

        Money in the form of currency has predominated throughout most of history. Usually (gold or silver) coins of intrinsic value (commodity money) have been the norm. However, nearly all contemporary money systems are based on fiat money – modern currency has value only by government order (fiat). Usually, the government declares the fiat currency (typically notes and coins issued by the central bank) to be legal tender, making it unlawful to not accept the fiat currency as a means of repayment for all debts, public and private

        Maybe instead of only getting 19/6d for my Scottish pound in England(happened to me many moons ago) we’ll get £1.20 or £1.50 since it will be backed by oil.

        This should be of interest The ‘Free Market’ Myth and the Suicide of Capitalism

      • Not about what you think – your vote is in the bag! But it’s about the doubters and they do have concerns about all these details. Every time a policy shift is announced on the hoof that then doesn’t join up to existing policy, it’s creating an opportunity for opponents. That is the central point here. Sadly, your – and indeed, my views – cynical or no – are of little concern at the moment! Great blog link – thanks!

  8. Happy 300th!
    Let’s get our independence re-instated first,then consider our options viz the euro etc later.Regardless of what panicky unionists might say there is no reason to be fear’t of political and economic fluidity.
    For what it’s worth I think an independent Scotland would be better outside the EU,or at most in the same position as the Norwegians.
    I’d also say we’ve always been living in “a world of global interdependence” and whether someone considers me a little Scotlander or not is unimportant as far as I’m concerned.

    • Thank you for the good wishes!

      But see above re it not mattering what you think., it is the unsures and don’t knows that have to be persuaded. And actually it does matter – independence is not an end in itself but a means to an end and that end – what it will do for Scotland – has to be spelled out. Not for avowed nationalists surely but you ar enot the target audience I’m afraid!

  9. Good post, I’ve always thought of myself as pro-European however as time goes on I definitely think it needs to be on our terms and that we shouldn’t give up any of the newly won powers just to be part of the EU.

    Also wondered if a trade agreement with Scandinavia, Germany and Netherlands would be more useful with Scotland acting as a gateway for trade via northern trade routes.

    • I think my only concern with being outwith EU and the terms of discourse to date, is that membership means so much more than just economic and trade issues. The human rights and fundamental rights aspects are very important, as are freedom of movement under Schengen, and European wide policing measures. Being outwith the EU also means we don’t get access to these shared rights and justice issues. They matter as much as the trade and economic issues.

      • Ahh, but we’re not in Schengen at the moment, whereas Norway, Iceland, Monaco and Switzerland are! It’s plausible that Scotland could set up various treaties to implement EU-like laws and partnerships, without actually being in the EU. But no guarantees, obviously.

      • Yep so we could – but why would we when apparently we want to be in the EU! See, this is the point – the SNP needs to spend a bit of time sorting through what its policy is and what it needs to be!

  10. I am not sure that I understand why you think that the SNP should have a rigid policy, when the policy of the eurozone countries is so uncertain?

  11. I’ve always felt instinctively pro-EU, but after reading this post, I’m starting to wonder if Scotland might be better off having Norway and Iceland style relations with the EU after all. Having said that, I still have no doubt in my mind that Scotland will flourish (no Corries pun intended) regardless of it’s status within the EU and the Eurozone. I also think that the EU would probably far rather have Scotland in than out, and if this meant bending their own rules a bit to let Scotland opt out of the Euro by claiming that the new member restrictions are not applicable, then that’s what would happen.

    • I think i agree with your last assertion and that some amount of leeway would be allowed. I also suspect Alex Salmond knows this and is banking on it but it’s a risky strategy. And while you have no doubts, persuading you to vote yes in the coming referendum is not what is required – it’s all the doubters out there who need to be persuaded. Having policy that doesn’t join up, that with every proclamation creates a reactive effect, is not good from that point of view.

      I too am instinctively pro European and would rather in than out but perhaps the shift to Norway/Iceland type relations with the EU is what the SNP leadership is aiming and heading for? Who knows without internal discourse about it all.

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