Wealth of our nation is hard to define

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GEORGE Kerevan’s article (Perspective, 24 May), challenging the UK Treasury’s ifs, buts and maybes as to whether we could survive an economic storm on our own, was itself challenging.

There are still too many real uncertainties about our future finances to take comfort from the UK Treasury’s muddying the waters, yet more with arguments ­starting with “would be likely to” or “there could be questions about”.

However, all sides continue to batter about assertions and a few figures at each other to make their cases. Even Mr Kerevan does this when he asserts that oil and whisky would generate about £50 billion a year in exports.

An array of reliable websites confirm this is correct, with some £4bn for whisky. What is missing is to remember that a large percentage of the billions does not accrue to us – it is remitted to non-Scottish interests, we get just some revenues (not much for the whisky) and the welcome employment.

So all the oil would continue to contribute (maybe) £10bn in revenue – but declining in short order even if all the many new explorations are successful (for
example a 40 million barrel field west of Shetland will last only five years at 24,000 bpd output and the Mariner field is reported to yield 250 million barrels from a total assessed of two billion).

Joe Darby

Cullicudden

Dingwall, Ross-shire

THERE can be no doubt that there is great benefit to be had from reading the opinions of those who espouse the Nationalist cause and subjecting it to scrutiny, where it shrivels up under the spotlight.

Consider Susan FG Forde (Letters, 24 May) who complains about monies being taken by English abattoirs for having slaughtered cattle from Scotland, to spend in England on the marketing of English meat.

Perish the thought that they should spend profits generated in England in, well, England. Yet, had the traffic in cattle being slaughtered been in the other
direction, north to Scotland, where else would Mrs Forde demand that the profit be spent, except in Scotland?

This seems to me to be pure hypocrisy.

This attitude was reinforced by First Minister Alex Salmond when he spoke about the Royal British ­Legion’s wish to commemorate the First World War, without, of course, making any mention of the era being about the survival of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Indeed, excepting the name, “Royal British Legion”, Mr Salmond succeeded in avoiding using the word, “British” or “Britain” at all. He managed to politicise it and talk only about Scotland’s losses and contribution.

Luckily for Scotland, we were sustained in that war by the participation of our countrymen and women throughout these islands and, indeed, by tremendous contributions from the empire. Without them, Scotland would have been conquered.

The reason why the Nationalists will lose their referendum is not an obscure one. It does not require a crystal ball to penetrate the fog that lies between now and September 2014. The reason why they will fail is because they are so narrow-minded, that they wish to rewrite history and make it just Scottish.

They do not believe in co-operation, but division. In doing so, they insult and
ignore the immense contribution made by all our family of nations, which the overwhelming majority of Scots happily acknowledge. That is why they cannot win.

Andrew HN Gray

Edinburgh

ROBIN McAlpine’s thought-provoking analysis (Perspective, 24 May) of the SNP’s economic blueprint for independence highlighted some of the shortcomings of gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of an economy’s success, but he let it off lightly.

GDP tells us nothing about inequality. Were one billionaire to build an indulgent monstrosity the size of Disney­land for his or her ­exclusive pleasure, while others tightened their belts, GDP could still rise.

GDP tells us nothing about sustainability. Greater use of pollutants will, other things being equal, lead to higher GDP.

GDP tells us nothing about the usefulness of the underlying activity it measures. If the amount of car vandalism increases, leading to more repair work, GDP will rise.

Yet we have allowed the rise or fall of this flawed number to become the default litmus test of an economy’s (and even a society’s) perceived success or failure. We feel good when this number goes up, we fret when this number falls.

The reality is that, in relatively wealthy countries such as Scotland, we are collectively consuming too much. That much is obvious from the developed world’s rapid and unsustainable exhaustion of finite natural resources.

GDP also tells us little about what people actually value in their lives, as demon­strated so elegantly by Oxfam Scotland’s innovative Humankind Index, one of a raft of much more helpful alternative measures of success. It is perverse for so many politicians, economists and commentators to continue to place so much emphasis on a number with so many obvious limitations.

Robin McAlpine is right to link the flaws in GDP to the opportunity we now have to think about Scotland’s future.

If we choose to embark on the process of creating a new nation we will have the opportunity to break free from unhelpful, outmoded concepts of the 20th century and build a Scotland at the cutting edge; a Scotland whose economy actually reflects the values of its people.

C Hegarty

North Berwick
East Lothian