What do you think is the life expectancy for a 21st century Scot? According to official statistics, the latest averages are 77.1 years for a man and 81.1 years for a woman.
What about a ‘generation’. How many years do you think that might be? I reckon somewhere between 25 to 30 years.
The reason for these questions is that I am trying to understand why you or I might understand what a ‘lifetime’ or a ‘generation’ means and yet this can so escape the mind of Nicola Sturgeon – First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party and indeed, of all those SNP delegates at a conference, last Saturday, who rose as one to applaud Sturgeon’s speech.
Sturgeon has said that later this Summer, presumably after the Euro Referendum, the Scots will undertake an exercise to kick-off a process which would lead to another Scottish ‘independence’ referendum being held.
What are we to make of this?
When the last referendum was held, the people of Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain part of the United Kingdom. During that referendum campaign and in the aftermath of the result, politicians of all hues and persuasion, including Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor, Alex Salmond made clear that this was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’.
The referendum was held in September 2014, as in 18 months ago. On what possible measurement can such a short period be considered a ‘lifetime’ or even a ‘generation’?
Wags now dub this the ‘neverendum’. Sturgeon and the SNP have learnt well the lessons of European referendums. If you don’t get the answer you want, ask again and keep asking until you do get the answer you want. Yes it is a very warped version of representative democracy but it really is all of one with socialist politicking. It is the political elite that knows best. Those privy to the mind and musings of the leader and her cabal, must be right.
Consider though, what has transpired since that September 2014 referendum. The SNP made so very much of the very positive impact that ‘Scottish oil’ would have on the Scottish economy. At the time, Brent Crude was trading just north of $100 a barrel. Since that time, oil prices have plummeted and, even though they have recently recovered a bit, now sit around $40 a barrel. To say that this blows a hole in the sustainability of the finances of an independent Scotland would be an understatement of titanic proportions.
I don’t want to bore you with statistics but consider the following:
£BN % of UK GDP
Public Revenues 51.6 8.0
Public Revenue incl. Oil 53.4 8.2
Public Expenditure 68.4 9.3
Deficit 13.7 9.8
Deficit incl. Oil 11.9 7.8
The overall UK deficit was 3.3% of GDP
(source GERS 2016)
These figures show one of the greatest benefits of the Union. Public spending in Scotland, at the above levels, was made possible because people in other parts of the United Kingdom, financed it. Remember too, that these Scottish Public Expenditure figures do not include any allocation of the financing costs for the UK’s debt mountain.
The people of Scotland voted, in 2014, to remain part of the United Kingdom. I believe that the economic uncertainty was a very large influencing factor. In addition to the precarious nature of ‘leaping into the dark’ largely based on a single commodity, the other major factor was the post-independence currency. The UK government had made clear that an independent Scotland could not expect to enjoy a currency union and the SNP could not answer what currency they would use. There was undoubted fear among the Scottish electorate, that the only choice would be for an independent Scotland to join the Euro. Sensible Scots had seen, time after time, the failings of this flawed currency and chose to have no part of it.
Nothing about this currency question has changed.
Any future independence referendum, in Scotland, requires an Act of Parliament, passed by the UK parliament. The one at Westminster. Nicola Sturgeon and many of those in the SNP, know this. They know that even their 50 Westminster MPs cannot force another referendum through Westminster. If there was any residual sympathy for another referendum, then this will surely have been discarded when the recent activity of the SNP, at Westminster, has been considered.
I refer to the changes that were proposed to Sunday Trading laws. These would only affect England and Wales. They would bring the Sunday Trading laws, in England and Wales, into line that already prevail in Scotland. Yet, the SNP decided to join with the Labour Party and others, including some Conservative dissenters and so voted out the opportunity. They came up with the most spurious claim to defend their action but, at the end of the day, they voted on matters that, being an issue that is devolved to the Holyrood parliament, would have absolutely no impact in Scotland. This was bare-faced political opportunism.
For me the position is crystal clear. David Cameron should use the next available occasion (Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s questions?) to make clear that we will not allow a new Scottish referendum to be on the legislative agenda during the lifetime of this parliament – so not before 2020 – and that if the Conservatives are re-elected, in 2020, then it would not appear on future legislative programmes.
Knowing that Cameron and Osborne are highly political animals, I think this is a win-win for the Conservatives. They take this issue off of the table for the immediate future and, more importantly, it will force Scottish electors to focus instead on the appallingly inept management of Scotland that the SNP exercise. The SNP, at Holyrood are failing the Scottish people. They are failing on health, failing on education, failing on social care and failing the poor and the disadvantaged.
It doesn’t take a cynic to suggest that this renewed enthusiasm for a referendum is a classic exercise in deflection. The SNP don’t want the Scots to look at their appalling record in Holyrood because it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The SNP want the Scots to go off on some kind of ‘Braveheart’ fantasy and ignore the wasted last 5 years.
Over to David Cameron.
Oh, and to the people of Scotland, so that they can give Sturgeon and her SNP bigots a very bloody nose.