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Last modified: 20 January 2014

Part of the problem: The Economist on Scotland.

Coherent and honest cases for the Union exist. The Economist makes neither.
My response to this article and this invitation. All headings are direct quotes from the original article.

If you're going to tell a lie, the saying goes, it's best to tell a big one. And there are few bigger than the opening argument in The Economist's musings on Scotland.

"English taxpayers' money has travelled in the same direction — Scotland receives a disproportionately generous grant from the central state."

This isn't true. The Economist said so in 2012; "an independent Scotland would currently gain roughly as much in taxes as it would lose in subsidies". The Telegraph agreed; "Scotland contributes 9.6% of Britain’s tax take and accounts for 9.3% of public spending". Yes, 9.3% is slightly greater than the 8.3% of the UK's population that live in Scotland, but Scottish wealth more than makes up for that.

Of course the amount is still disproportionately large but it seems that there is one standard for Scotland and another for London; the UK region that frequently is the most disproportionately generously funded by the UK state.

In The Economist's fawning over its home city it has not once suggested that Scottish money flows to London. Perhaps Eurfyl ap Gwilym could inform its writers in the same way he enlightened Jeremy Paxman on this issue.

"Scottish voters are more left-leaning than the British population as a whole (particularly the English)."

For a newspaper so keen to divide England into a hopeless North that should be abandoned and a prosperous South worthy of huge state investment this show of English unity is surprising. Sadly, it is disingenuous. English unity is only invoked to allow the South-East's size to average out a divided political nation. The bigger picture is that much of England favours Scotland's devolved political slant to that of the United Kingdom's current government.

In some ways Wales and the North of England are more left-leaning than Scotland; Bradford West's MP George Galloway and Derbyshire's Dennis Skinner are the most left-wing in the House of Commons and Plaid Cyrmu sit well to the left of the centrist SNP.

Scots, Welsh and the Northern English were united in the last election in voting for a Labour party The Economist suggests is a Scottish fetish. It is the South of England, not Scotland, that bucks the political trend of Britain.

"public sector reform is less developed than in England"

Not according to The Economist who recently reported that while England argues about police reform, "Scotland does it".
Nor on planning where Scotland has consistently built more homes per head than England for decades.
Nor in the NHS where Scotland has shifted a large amount of money away from acute care and towards prevention.
If The Economist has other areas of reform in mind, it should have mentioned some.

"Ireland and Iceland were swiftly struck from the list when their economies collapsed in the financial crisis."

A line oft repeated, but rarely explored. Yes, Alex Salmond has cooled on Ireland and Iceland but he remains happy to talk about them. He's also right to note that both are richer and provide a higher quality of life to their citizens than the UK.

The fragility that would come with Scotland's increased nimbleness post independence is a fascinating topic for debate. Whether the EU can provide in the future what the UK provided in the past is indeed worthy of The Economist's attention; and of interest to a global audience. Sadly its attentions seem to be elsewhere.

"Scots are well represented in the political, intellectual and cultural life of the wider country."

The Economist is probably thinking about the likes of Kirsty Wark, who lives in London. Or Andrew Neil, who lives in London. Or James Naughtie, who lives in London. Or politicians like Danny Alexander, who lives in London. Or our last Prime Minster, Gordon Brown, who lived, and still mostly lives, in London. Or Alastair Darling who lives, at least part of the time, in London.

Scots are well represented in the wider country — but only, it seems, if they move to London. Even that most Scottish of comedians Billy Connolly had to do his stint in London on the road to wider recognition.

The truth is that if you dare to stay in the North, like the wonderful comic Limmy, the UK's institutions will try their hardest to pretend you don't exist.

 

So, why do some Scots want to leave the United Kingdom?

I'll write about that after a weekend in Glasgow and Stirling. Until then, look at this graph, read this article, and catch up on these tweets. And thank you for reading! :) As always, intelligent opinions are very welcome. Contact me however you like.