Future shortfalls

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IN HIS eagerness to pour scorn on the SNP’s flagship policy of full fiscal autonomy/responsibility Peter Jones inevitably quotes the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimate that by 2019-20 “the IFS reckons Scotland’s deficit will be 4.6 per cent of GDP while the UK should move into a small surplus of 0.3 per cent of GDP” (Perspective, 9 June).

May I first make the rather ­obvious point that nobody, however allegedly expert and “impartial”, can foretell the future in such precise detail and under whatever constitutional arrangements. These predictions are not to be treated as established “facts” cast in tablets of stone – they are merely estimates with an underlying political motivation designed to undermine the case for fiscal autonomy, let alone the similar case for independence.

Moreover, I should have thought a perceptive commentator like Mr Jones would have been prepared – unlike the IFS – to factor into such calculations some consideration of the arguably adverse impact of the loss of the oil taxation revenues as well as of all other taxes and National Insurance contributions – currently paid directly into the UK Treasury by Scottish taxpayers – on the London government’s prospects of meeting its deficit reduction targets within the advertised time-scale, and the ensuing consequences for the UK’s­ ­national debt, currently standing at around £1.3 trillion.

So if Mr Jones is correct and Scotland’s Finance Secretary, the patently Machiavellian John Swinney, really is playing a “game of bluff” in relation to his party’s aspirations for full fiscal autonomy his plea in mitigation must surely be that in his negotiations with Westminster over more fiscal powers for Holyrood he is up against an unacknowledged master of that black art, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Take a bow, George – the Union is safe in your hands.

Ian O Bayne

Clarence Drive

Glasgow

SCOTLAND spends more than it earns and has done so for 19 of the past 20 years. On average, Scotland’s deficit has been bigger than the rest of the UK for at least ten years. These are incontrovertible facts that can’t be found in any SNP manifesto.

This fiscal position is why ­Labour argued against the SNP policy of full fiscal autonomy. It also explains why the SNP is now so cool on the policy.  

By distancing themselves from FFA the Nationalists are confirming that independence would have had a brutal impact on public services in Scotland. They are signalling that they accept that it is to Scotland’s benefit to pool and share resources with the rest of the UK.

Indeed, FFA is increasingly looking like a policy designed to placate hard-core nationalists who believe more powers must be attained at any cost.

Whether this is correct or not, FFA did dominate the SNP election campaign. As such, the Nationalists have a duty to seek to deliver it via the Scotland Bill and seek support from the Tory benches. The Tories may jump at the chance of cutting the deficit by £10 billion and the SNP will have won a Pyrrhic victory for its hard-core supporters.

(Dr) Scott Arthur

Buckstone Gardens

Edinburgh

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