Show us the money!

At least, now we know.

If Scotland votes no in 2014, we face years, if not decades of austerity, of scrimping and scraping, of unemployment and under-employment and of cuts to public services.  No matter who wins the UK election in 2015, Conservative or Labour, we’re going to keep the current spending limits and aim to pay down the debt.  Westminster fiddles while we all burn.

For months, people have been clamouring for information in our constitutional debate and for certainty about what the future holds.  And if this kind of certainty isn’t a potential game-changer in the independence referendum campaign, I’m not sure what is.

For this isn’t exactly what folk had in mind.  The question being put by the undecideds and doubters has invariably been directed at the yes campaign; tell us what independence feels, smells and tastes like to help us make up our minds.  The challenge for Yes Scotland and the Scottish Government is to turn this around, to mess with everyone’s minds if you like and to make the certainty of our economic future a reason to embrace change.  It’s not the uncertainty of a future going it alone that should be vexing you, but the certain path being laid out which offers nothing but sackcloth and ashes.

And it’s time to make a mockery of the premise at the heart of the no campaign – that we are Better Together, because patently we are not going to be.

The Chancellor, ahead of the Spending Round statement for 2015-16 he will deliver this coming Wednesday, launched a natty wee video, to explain in simple terms what our current financial predicament means.  At least £13 billion of cuts, on top of the £11 billion or so already announced for next year.

It’s not clear what this means for Scotland until the actual budget allocations are announced, but given that we are not one of the Treasury’s ring-fenced budgets, we can hazard a guess that it means less money being handed to us to spend.  John Swinney has an article today in Scotland on Sunday which outlines how Westminster is eroding our economic powers:

Since 1999 Scotland’s freedom to allocate spending on Scotland’s priorities has been curbed, constrained and curtailed by creeping Treasury controls. Scotland’s money has been progressively divided into different pots with restricted uses, without any consultation.”

The argument has validity and should – rightly – spark indignation, particularly when UK budget statements start to interfere with democratic spending decisions already made here in Scotland.  As they did, this year.

Moreover, the grievance card has its place in the suit of options available to the Scottish Government in this debate:  it’s not been deployed nearly as much as it was in the first SNP Holyrood administration and we can expect it to appear more frequently as we grind towards the vote in September 2014.  Good.

But we need to start conducting this debate in a language that people can understand, which makes sense to their sense of everyday and which makes it patently clear what certainty means.  The Scottish Government needs to start showing us the money.

Thus, the response needs to be both political and micro-economic. The Scottish Government needs to spell out what this democratic deficit means, that every year that the Tories ring fence spending for schools south of the border makes it harder for us to do the same up here.  And to start setting out starkly what it means when the Chancellor puts austerity before growth in his economic strategy.  We might all nod blithely along when our Cabinet Secretary for Finance rails against this, but in truth we haven’t a clue what it means.

So tell us.  Get us a natty wee cartoon which shows what the cuts to the Scottish budget actually look like.  In terms of leaky roofs in schools, closed libraries, disappearing jobs, broken swings, potholes in pavements and roads.  And spell it out in terms of household finances.  Because cuts in spending mean increased bus fares to get to work or to go to the shops.

It means parents being expected to dig deeper for fundraising activity by schools.  It means your granny having to dig into her meagre pension to pay more for her emergency call service and meals on wheels.  It means your child losing their free swimming session on a Saturday.  And it means your wee cousin leaving university with a decent degree and having no job to go to.

Sure, Scotland already controls most of these policy areas but it really doesn’t matter what we want to provide for our people if we don’t have any money to pay for it.  And that’s what voting no in 2014 will deliver.  You might want to live in a country that does all of this and more, but you can only have a chance of doing so in your lifetime by voting yes.

Vote no in 2014 and you get Tory or Labour cuts in 2015.  Vote no in 2014 and you and your family can look forward to years of doing without.  Vote no in 2014 for a dismal future and for our children – your children – to have little to look forward to.

And while we can’t say definitely what voting yes will result in – that will be for us to decide in the first elections after independence – we can assure you of one thing, with absolute certainty and clarity.

That Scotland’s future can be different.  And if you want even the possibility of a different future, that doesn’t involve your family being force fed a diet of austerity by either the Tories or Labour, then vote yes.

12 thoughts on “Show us the money!

  1. Westminster has declared war on the poor. The YES campaign has to declare war on poverty and inequality.

    I honestly don’t think that’s going to be difficult considering Westminster is merely a political vehicle for The City of London (the real power brokers). and as such only governs for the benefit of the top 1% wealthiest in society.

    Nobody is saying that Independence will mean a land of milk and honey and poverty will disappear overnight . Being part of a Union that’s the 4th most unequal state in the developed world makes that a long term objective.

    It’s accurate to state that Scottish Labour MP’s will be Better Together.

  2. Whatever the calls of ‘we wuzz robbed’ following the1979 Referendum, it seemed clear that we ordinary folks, not denizens of the Holyrood Village nor members of the McChatterati, cared less for the Scottish Pride argument and more about the price of fish in an independent Scotland.

    Now that Westminster politicians have presented a future vision consisting mainly of hard(er) times the argument that a real Scottish Government would rebalance the available cash into policies which prioritise needs north of the border seems like manna from heaven for the yes camp.

    The main question I have is whether interests of the movers and shakers in the Scottish financial community are aligned with the betterment of Scotland as a whole? This concept of Bill Jamieson’s ‘Grand Grossartia’ was examined by Walter Humes in the Scottish Review last year:
    http://www.scottishreview.net/WalterHumes248.shtml

  3. So the Smart one now says that someone somewhere has said that independence will “AUTOMATICALLY” bring an end to our troubles. I would like to see evidence of anyone saying that, just because you want something to be true, like saying that Alex Salmond was going to cancel the referendum does not make it true, no matter how wonderful it looks in your parallel universe. Alex Salmond has said very recently that as we all know, we will make mistakes, but they will be our mistakes not those imposed from 400 miles away by London based parties pandering to the City and big money bank gamblers. I like that. Scotland has nothing to fear except fear.
    If the evidence from the Donside tells us anything it tells us that more and more people are getting behind the Yes campaign and moving away from the No campaign, with all to play for as the undecided remain still to be convinced. As the Scottish Government aka, in UKOK land, The Scottish Executive, lays out the factual positive and honest case, and the Yes campaign continues to wallow in negativity and bitter recrimination we will see more and more people rejecting their doom and patronising gloom, as they become sick fed up listening to their lies and fearbombing guff. The Yes campaign has shot it’s bolt, and they know it, you only have to witness the red faced angry shouty man that Darling the bomb aimer has become. The latest lies and propaganda from Billy Vague on his conversation en route from Brazil to Afghanistan is side splitting stuff. The longer it goes on the more patronising and utterly ridicules the unionist propaganda becomes. Nice one Alex, you called it 100% correct.
    Good honest article from burdzeyeview.

  4. Ian Smart: “Argue for Independence in principle if you like. A decent case can be made. But the idea that it would AUTOMATICALLY wish away all our problems (or even any of them) is a wholly false premise.”

    But nobody IS saying that. What they are saying is that by being Independent Scotland will make its decisions based 100% on the choices that Scottish voters make. The politics in Scotland WILL HAVE TO reflect Scottish political party aspirations about what a future Scotland would be, and the voters will elect them (or not) based on the manifestos presented, and the degree in which voters are prepared to trust the politicians.

    One thing is crystal clear, if Scotland votes NO then decisions will remain in Westminster’s hands, and not Scotland’s. Is this democratic deficit EVER going to be acknowledged by Westminster and resolved? No, I do not think so. “Jam tomorrow” no longer cuts the mustard.

    The “Status quo” is in fact changing. No one seems to want to tell Scots what will happen after a NO vote. But the concerns raised in this article should be made clear to all Scottish voters. The future after NO will be bleak indeed. Only a YES vote will give Scotland a chance to forge a different future.

    Scotland CAN afford to be different, the Exchequer will not “open the books” as this will reveal the extent to which, even the GERS figures, underestimate the true strength of Scotland’s economy. This was dissected years ago “the Big lie” and “the great obfuscation”. The truth IS out there. It’s past time that Scots took more interest in their country and started doing their own research. The MSM in Scotland WILL NOT do this for you.

  5. I am less than clear as to how any change in Constitutional arrangements produces money. No matter whether it leaves us slightly better off (if you read the small print, the best claim that informed Nationalists make) or, while the oil lasts) slightly worse off (the worst accusation of the devolutionists) in either scenario the deficit requires to be addressed. No matter what you make of the leaked John Swinney paper, that is its central message.

    The reason the Eds have gone down the route they have in the UK is that it is neither credible nor honest to maintain otherwise.

    The current Holyrood administration has consistently avoided hard decisions that would threaten middle class perks inherited from better economic times. The price for that is being paid by the poor.

    It’s all very well to say that after independence we might elect governments of a different political stripe but there is simply no evidence that Scots are anything other than scrupulously centrist in their politics. Notably, the far left didn’t even think it was worth the bother of putting up a candidate in Donside. And nobody, myself included, has ever thought of the Scottish Labour Party as any more left wing than the Party elsewhere in the Country. It is no accident that John Swinney thought that the use of the current Parliament’s tax powers was so unlikely that it wasn’t worth the bother of maintaining them or that the central “national” policy to the SNP’s Donside campaign was the wholly regressive council tax freeze.

    Argue for Independence in principle if you like. A decent case can be made. But the idea that it would AUTOMATICALLY wish away all our problems (or even any of them) is a wholly false premise. Worse still, victory on that premise would be likely to have a very dark consequence for the internal affairs of Scotland once the promised Nirvanah did not appear. For somebody other than ourselves would inevitably have to be found to blame.

    • Independence doesn’t provide a huge amount of new money – though it may provide some new money. But it provides choice, which is what we don’t really have now. Even in devolved areas we don’t have full choice because of Barnett. You must know that the marketisation of public services is not really a cost cutting measure, it doesn’t actually cut costs for a start. It’s philosophical as much as anything else. People simply don’t want it here because they can see it’s a con. We can say no with independence.

      And on the economy side, the Scottish economy will never ever be top of the UK agenda, I wouldn’t argue that it should be – Scotland has just 8pc of the UK’s population so why on earth should our needs take priority over anyone else’s? But with independence an economic policy designed specifically to suit Scotland would be the norm. It would transform our politics, it would transform our chances of improving peoples lives. It’s not a magic wand of course and there is no guarantee against governments getting things wrong, but it’s surely better than the status quo where we are just onlookers basically.

  6. Pingback: Show us the money! | Referendum 2014 | Scoop.it

  7. Agree with you. For undecided voters, i.e. the politically uncommitted, the political arguments don’t actually matter that much. Their decision will be based on what a vote either way will mean for their lives. If the Yes side can persuade them that independence will protect the public services they care about – the NHS, decent education, good care for the elderly etc – and also provide more jobs and opportunities in a more prosperous economy then we’ll win. We don’t need to promise the moon, just something better than is being promised by the No side. Which isn’t going to be hard now.

  8. Hi Kate. John Swinney himself has admitted that even after independence, Scotland will face years of budget cuts if it wants to pay for stuff like pensions. He even told his Cabinet, although for some reason they didn’t want to share that information with ordinary Scots. Still, we know now and I guess that’s what really matters.
    You say that Westminster doesn’t give Scotland enough money, so we need to have the powers to raise it ourselves. That’s a fair point, and one which will probably resonate with councils across the country which have been told by the SNP that they can’t increase their Council Tax, not even on rich folk who live in big houses. That’s inevitably led to cuts in other services – funnily enough, the type of things you list when you warn about the consequences of voting No.
    One final thing. This idea that Scotland will be awash with cash post-2014 while the rest of the UK is condemned to decades of Tory/Labour cuts is a nice, simplistic assertion – but that’s all it is. To suggest that Scotland alone in the EU (because unlike those nasty English we all want to be in the EU, Alex has said so) will be floating on a sea of money is fanciful. We’ll have our shar of the UK’s debt to pay off, be subjected to the Bnk of England’s monetary controls (nice one, Alex) and at the beck and call of Brussels too.
    It’s a great blog post as always Kate, and you make a persuasive case. But Scots aren’t daft enough to believe that simply voting yes will usher in an era of unimaginable wealth for ever and a day. The polls amply demonstrate that.
    All the best.

    • Hi cynical Scot, your comments are most welcome and provide much to ponder. Indy, for me at any rate, is not about doing more with less but about doing better and doing different. Yes we would have similar strictures as UK currently but cutting debt and spend is not the only option. We can choose to increase income, through a variety of means, not least a proper growth strategy. Indeed, the fact that Scotland appears to be coping (marginally) better currently is a bit of a puzzle but might be down to investment in infrastructure? And if it’s good enough for the IMF, surely someone somewhere should be asking why it’s not good enough for the main UK parties?

    • Westminster doesn’t give us anything. It is our money. This is the key point. Do we want to be able to decide how to spend our own money? I say Yes.

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