The Sunday read, a guest article from Ian Gourlay. Well written it is backed up with factual information and sources, it is literally an ammunition dump for arguments to support Scottish Independence. Sit down with a tea or a coffee. Enjoy!
Having retired I can relate to now having time to take a long look into subjects. It’s an unexpected ‘pleasure’ of getting older (yes the results can be very enlightening but also disheartening, but as a friend joked, no matter the outcome at least you won’t die stupid). This email turned out to be a much longer than I’d intended, but trying to discuss a complex issue such as independence, does require highly relevant information to back up any claims. The use of staggeringly simplistic (ie meaningless at best, lies at worst) slogans that are not backed up with any detailed explanations, such as “Brexit means brexit” and “Take back control” are best left with the unionists.
For quite a few years I’ve been amazed at the lack of fight back against claims that Scotland can’t afford to become independent, when even with my limited economic knowledge back then, I knew England was in no place to talk about Scotland not being able to afford becoming independent.
The comparisons over years (often decades) between the UK & our northern neighbours highlighted this while also providing reasons as well. My go to site for this information was – https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/compare-countries/ GDP per capita became the primary comparative measure with smallish nations from Iceland to Austria. To balance this, the Gini Inequality gave it some realism within the bias that GDP has. Other issues could be looked at as both cause of the UK’s significantly lower level of wealth (eg R&D % spend, Capital investment %) and the consequences (eg Doctors & Physiotherapists per 1,000 people). In all of these the UK was worst, year after year.
Perhaps though the most important measure is how the UK pays or doesn’t pay it’s way in the world – it’s current account or trade balance. This turned negative in the 1980’s and has relentlessly declined since then. For me this is the one chart that highlights what the future of the UK will be like. A trade deficit is unsustainable in the long run and the consequences will eventually come home to roost as dictated by others. ‘in countries that are spending a lot more abroad than they are taking in, the current account is the point at which international economics collides with political reality’ & ‘Does it matter how long a country runs a current account deficit? When a country runs a current account deficit, it is building up liabilities to the rest of the world that are financed by flows in the financial account. Eventually, these need to be paid back. Common sense suggests that if a country fritters away its borrowed foreign funds on spending that yields no long-term productive gains, then its ability to repay—its basic solvency—might come into question’ – https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/basics/current.htmhttps://archive.is/dIH4B#selection-2025.0-2025.204https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/balanceofpayments/timeseries/hbop/pnbp The UK’s long term deficit is already being flagged internationally. The Moody’s country rating for the UK has been reduced five times since2012 from Aaa to Aa3. Despite all this, the UK’s delusions continue –
Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, said:
The UK is an exporting superpower
Belatedly it now seems clear to me that the creation of the British Empire was the foundation of Britains wealth and also, despite clear evidence to the contrary, for the continued belief that the UK is still a global economic power. The studies showing for example a very different light on what India contributed financially to Britain (£45 trillion) differs hugely from the traditional history of the British Empire, one that usually promotes a specifically non financial history. That is not by accident nor is because the financial side wasn’t important. As one author put it – ‘In the mid-sixteenth century, England was a small and relatively insignificant kingdom on the periphery of Europe’, from the book ‘How England’s Merchants Founded America and Launched the British Empire’.
The question is then, how did England/Britain become so wealthy since the sixteenth century. Being at the forefront of industrialisation clearly played a large role in how Britain became wealthy, not least in the creation of a massive navy, but utilising the resources and preferential market access to other nations probably played a much larger role. As George Orwell said “An empire is primarily a money making concern”. Given that the wealth of England/Britain took off when the empire was being created and that the decline of the empire in the mid 20th century did likewise to it’s wealth, the corelation between wealth and empire seems to be the primary one. The £45 trillion calculated to have been taken from India before it became independent puts a quantitiative valuation that supports this, as do other financial figures. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_the_British_Empire
These figures don’t even include non empire nations such as China whom through forced opium ‘sales’ Britain also gained massive wealth. ‘Britain and other European countries undertook the opium trade because of their chronic trade imbalance with China. There was tremendous demand in Europe for Chinese tea, silks, and porcelain pottery, but there was correspondingly little demand in China for Europe’s manufactured goods and other trade items. Consequently, Europeans had to pay for Chinese products with gold or silver. The opium trade, which created a steady demand among Chinese addicts for opium imported by the West, solved this chronic trade imbalance’ – https://www.britannica.com/topic/opium-trade
Clearly the empire and it’s forced economic control of other nations provided the backbone of Britains wealth during it’s empire years/centuries, something that came to an end seventy five years ago. The economic story of the British empire shows that apart from an early start in industrialisation (one that was rapidly lost), there was no inherent quality about Britain that led to it’s great wealth. Simply put, for centuries Britain was massively subsidised by other nations – the empire nations, and when that stopped in the mid 20th century, the real economic decline of Britain began. The UK has not adjusted to this new reality. It’s archaic institutions and way of thinking guarantees it’s unwillingingness to change and therefore the decline can be expected to continue.
For me, Scotland becoming independent would allow it the chance to become like any of our dozen or so European neighbours in terms of wealth, equality and well being. Remaining in the UK would I think, ruin Scotland since I think that England is nowhere near ready to adjust to the modern world and is destined to decline into a very dark place. This is what haunts me most about Scotland not becoming independent and why I despair at the lack of push back when the UK states that Scotland couldn’t afford to be independent. Scotland is one of the few places still subsidising England in various ways.
England doesn’t understand or among those in power, admit that the empire was the primary source of it’s wealth and that ever since the empire ended, the ‘UK’ has been living on memories that never existed, ones of Britains/Englands inherent greatness. The UK’s trade balanace deficit since 1985 highlights the reality of this mentality. Since then, the UK has not been paying it’s way in the world and that is unsustainable. The UK is living on borrowed time. So what about now and how would Scotland and England fare as independent nations. Figures from 2020 shows Scotland exports at £26 billion and imports at £20 billion, a surplus of £6 billion. I assume these don’t include inter UK imports and exports. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/968005/RTS_Q4_2020.pdf
Using figures from 2013 – ‘The most recent Scottish government figures, not including oil and gas, show Scotland sold £50.5bn in goods and services to the rest of the UK in 2013. The rest of the UK sold £62.7bn in goods and services to Scotland’. That leaves a deficit of £12 billion. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-28916642 However the figures for what rUK sold to Scotland in 2013 from another source shows this figure to be £53 billion, almost £10 billion less than that quoted on the BBC, resulting in a trade deficit of £2.5 billion. https://www.statista.com/statistics/348525/scotland-imports-origin-uk/ Interestingly, if Scotland imports around £53 billion from rUK and the UK exports to United States were US$57.72 billion in 2020 (£41 biliion), which includes exports from Scotland to the US, Scotland must therefore be rUK’s biggest export market. The UK hint that they could hinder trade with an independent Scotland is a political bluff, although as with Brexit, the UK’s capacity for self harm is clearly very significant. Still, if the choice between electricity from Scotland or Yorkshire Puds from rUK, the importance seems pretty clear. https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/exports-by-country I have no idea how reliable these figures and clearly it would be good to have as solid figures as is possible. However as seen with Ireland, the rapid move away from UK markets to EU ones shows that any post independence focus in Scotland is likely to be international rather than with the UK.
With regards to the UK and England in particular, the UK’s current account deficit has existed and relentlessly got worse since 1985. The ‘regional’ trade figures show that in the UK, only Scotland has a strong positive international trade balance. England has a huge international trade deficit. Clearly England faces a huge challenge to get control over it’s trade balance, for if it doesn’t, it faces a looming financial crisis sooner or later.
It avoided such a crisis in 1976 probably due to North Sea oil, but the severe conditions that were part of a bailout loan from the IMF suggest that such actions would be harsh when they happen again. The British empire effect continues to delude too many in England and sadly also in Scotland, that the UK is still a powerful economic ‘nation’ and inherently has been for centuries, while the economic reality is that it’s wealth was temporary and built upon taking massive wealth from colonial nations. It ended after ww2 which was when, unsurprisingly endless economic crisis became the norm in the UK. This has not been widely promoted anywhere in the UK.
The true economic position of the UK (and England in particular) is that since the mid 1980’s it started having to sell off public assets to balance it’s international debts and that is not sustainable. The UK is not paying it’s way in the world and an economic crisis is inevitable. As Jim Rogers said when discussing Scottish independence, ‘without Scottish oil, Little England doesn’t have much to sell to the outside world’. Exactly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYzvUpoRsCU Looking at the balance of trade figures, Scotland is clearly in a much stronger balance of trade position than the UK.
‘Losing’ Scotland would therefore be economically disasterous for the UK which no doubt why it is fought against so vehemently. The argument that Scotland can’t afford to be independent is truly an Orwellian phrase. The consequences for Scotland remaining in the UK however are clearly far too serious for the push for independence not to be made in the most clear and robust terms. It frightens me when I hear comments from Scots basically saying what the UK says
. I appreciate that the history of wealth or economics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it lies at the heart of why Scotland should become independent and why it needs to break away from UK controls. The saying ‘the truth shall set you free’ has never been so true. For the unionists it’s more a case of ‘ignorance is strength’. I wouldn’t propose using Britain’s status as a subsidised ‘nation’ nor it’s clearly evident economic decline since it’s post colonial days after 1945 to be a first line of attack in arguing for an independent Scotland, but what I would expect is that as soon as and every time the unionist’s come out with their lies attacking Scotland’s ability to be independent, then the full blast of Britain’s glorious economic subsidy dependency & subsequent economic decline once that ended, should be be made crystal clear.
The information is there to support the case that it isn’t Scotland that can’t afford independence, it’s rUK. GERS is proof of the union’s maliciousness and malicious intent in financial matters. The public finances are important but I suspect that the trade figures are much more important, and here lies Scotland’s greatest strength and rUK’s greatest weakness. Time to expose and call rUK’s bluff. England last stood on it’s own two feet back in the 16th century. After that it was subsidised by other nations up until the mid 20th century. I don’t know if a figure can be placed on what this subsidy transfer would have been worth in total for all nations whose wealth was diverted to Britain up until that date. India £45 trillion. China ?, Iraq ?, others? Whatever the figure, it will be massive and it explains why England/Britain was wealthy beyond what it otherwise would have been.
But it was never sustainable and now all of the UK has to learn to stand on their own two feet. I simply don’t see England being capable of that as the economic figures show, let alone the cultural hamsting effect of it’s continued delusions about it’s place in the world. The sad thing with this is that a Scotland within the UK will at best only slow down the UK’s continued decline. To avoid that disaster for me is why Scotland need’s to become independent. The negatives of staying in the UK need to become much more prominent.
The unionists aren’t shy with their lies about Scotland. It’s time Scotland exposed the UK’s historical economic dependence on others and recent abysmal trade account deficit, along with the delusional madness of a “Take Back Control” mentality. That it is England that can’t afford to be independent explains what Scotland is up against in trying to become independent. The UK is playing a huge bluff in stating that Scotland can’t afford to be independent. It’s the UK’s economic future that looks very bleak, with or without Scotland. An independent Scotland’s looks promising. An independent England looks truly dire and to me this explains the unionist’s dilema and also their strident false claims about Scotland’s independence.
I hope Alba tackle this effectively and don’t allow the dumbing down so loved by unionist’s to prevail or consider this to be too negative. I have sent my views to them but have no idea of whether they are viewed by them as important. Getting the economic facts about Britain, Scotland and England out there is essential for people to be able to make an informed decision. Leave the lies & flippancy to those that have nothing more to offer than a bluff. It looks like Brexit may help people get over their acceptance of political bluff and start to look at economic matters. There’s nothing like empty supermarkets to make people wake up.
The choice over independence is much starker than most people realise. It’s also a much more straightforward choice than has been suggested so far. Scottish independence is about three futures not one. Firstly Scotland as an independent nation, secondly Scotland continuing to be within the UK as now (or worse), and thirdly that of an independent rUK (England in reality). Due to economic realties, the unionist Establishment’s main motivation is to avoid the last of these at all costs, but this outcome is hidden under the lies of how Scotland couldn’t afford independence. We can’t ignore this fact since within it is the truth about the case for Scotland’s independence and how the UK will fight against it.
All the economic factors point to one thing – prosper in an independent Scotland or continued decline as part of the UK. The future of an independent England is something for those in England to determine. In 2014 the UK had no positive case for the union other than empty phrases. It had plenty of economic lies about an independent Scotland though. The UK started a fight by endlessly repeating lies about the economics of independence and hiding their own non-existent case for the UK. So next time (if we even need a next time), we should get the pro’s about Scotland’s economy out there alongside the cons of remaining in the union, all based on economic numbers that can be verified.
Let the UK continue to ignore their pro case for the UK (which they don’t have anyway) and resume their lies and slogans. I doubt the side of a bus approach will work when faced with a real argument. Brexit BS is likely to have ended that tactic’s usefulness. Most of all, the gloves need to come off. Make the unionist’s try to defend their economic position. What effect would this have on the very significant number of English born people that now live in and continue to move to Scotland in large numbers? It’s hard to say but it does highlight the need to make sure that voting rights, if that’s the chosen route, are not weakened by those that have outdated and hard to change views of both Scotland and the UK simply because of where they were born and brought up. The need for a fair franchise is overwhelming. We will never prosper as a colony, as the rest of the Empire discovered before us.
Ian has put a lot of work into compiling this information and I thank him for it. i also like his attitude that we must be confident, robust and aggressive in making the case for Independence. We have the ammunition, loads of it, we just need a widespread assault by as many people as possible, at all levels, until we finally breakthrough.
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland.
BEAT THE CENSORS
Unfortunately a number of pro Indy sites have turned out to be merely pro SNP sites and have blocked a number of bloggers, including myself. We have managed to frustrate these efforts to close us down through our readers sharing our articles and building our audience. In addition many have taken out free direct subscriptions. I very much appreciate this support.
Are available on the Home and Blog pages of this website. By taking out a subscription you will receive notification of all future posts. You will be most welcome.