Devo-max much better for productivity

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Andrew Cumbers and Iain Docherty (“Independence will create a global power”, Perspective, 5 April) hold out the prospect of productivity gains resulting from Scottish separation.

But they missed some key points: to develop the higher skill levels needed for higher productivity requires higher standards of education at all levels – a responsibility already devolved to Holyrood.

Why is it Westminster’s fault if Scottish students do not shape up to their peers in Asia? Where are the specific proposals on education, not the vague promises, in the white paper?

They are quite right that investment in technology and innovation are essential precursors.

Scottish universities, because of their excellence, currently attract far more than their UK national share of funding from UK-wide research councils; post-separation, they would lose that preferential support.

A glance at the Office for National Statistics’ analysis of why UK productivity gain has been slow since the crisis is revealing.

The dominant sources of weakness are in just three sectors: oil and gas, utilities and finance, all of which are proportionately more important to Scotland than to the UK as a whole.

North Sea Oil is mature and output is declining, so more and more investment is required to maintain production, squeezing productivity.

A focus on renewable energy has resulted in large-scale investment in wind farms, whose productivity is notoriously low.

As banks (particularly Scottish ones) retrench their balance sheets, after the excesses of the “light-touch regulation era”, productivity is under pressure.

But at least this is not something Scotland will have to worry about.

Professor Young’s paper, publicised by Sir Tom Hunter, makes it clear that the size of current Scottish bank balance sheets, many times the size of the Scottish economy, would not be supported by international lenders unless they shifted their headquarters south and their regulatory regime to the shelter and support of the Bank of England.

It is unfortunate that proponents of separation repeatedly cite distorted and selective macro-economic and business arguments to support their case, rather than simply acknowledging the Braveheart impulse, which wants separation from “them” whatever the cost.

Devo-max would deliver all of the benefits of local, ie Scottish, accountability and efficiency without any of the costs.

Robert Stephens

Morningside Park

Edinburgh

Andrew Gordon (Letters, 7 April) questions the right of business leaders to make public their views on an independent Scotland; instead of hearing from them what their business case is we should instead pay heed to what Mr Gordon thinks it should be!

In his view, businesses should be embracing “risk and uncertainty”.

Moreover, “change”, it seems, is good per se.

I wonder how many successful businesses operate on these principles.

I wonder also if Mr Gordon would approve of the pronouncements of those business leaders who have positive things to say – though they are rather thin on the ground.

It is typical of the Yes campaign to attempt to suppress the countless contributions to the debate which cast doubt on its vision of utopia.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue

Edinburgh

Andrew Gordon rightly says that well-run businesses regularly carry out checks on risks and uncertainties.

He also wrongly states that risk and uncertainty are what drive market economies. It is the identifying of risks and uncertainties and planning for them that ensures a good market economy.

This is something that the white paper on independence fails to do.

Mr Gordon refers to independence as being akin to a management buy-out.

All I can say about that is that if the SNP leadership was to take its uncosted manifesto, referred to as the white paper, to a bank in support of its application for finance for a buy-out of Scotland it would be shown the door in very short order.

The SNP keeps telling us it welcomes debate but every time experts in whatever field express opinions which go against SNP mantras they are abused and vilified and told to keep out of the debate.

Once again, we have Mr Gordon telling business leaders to keep out of it and “hud their wheesht”.

Very edifying.

Donald Lewis

Gifford

East Lothian

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