Be careful what you wish for, Mr Swinney

Not so very long ago Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and people like Stan Grodynski were telling us that Scotland was a rich country.

John Swinney said in October 2011 that Scotland would become the world’s sixth richest country if it controlled a geographical share of the North Sea oil.

Well be careful what you wish for, Mr Swinney. Full fiscal autonomy (FFA) is going to give you huge debts, not riches.

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Now they and Stan Grodynski (Letters, 14 April) are telling us how to manage the huge deficit by borrowing to fill the black hole of £7-8 billion per year that Scotland will have to endure for years to come. Have they no shame?

Should they achieve FFA everyone will pay either in taxes or poor services or both and yet today it’s reported that opinion polls in Scotland show the SNP increasing its lead over all other parties.

With SS Ecosse sailing towards the rocks under an FFA sail without a rudder one would expect the rats to be abandoning the ship but here we have the lemmings jumping aboard with their hands clutching their nether regions and their heads in the clouds. Unbelievable.

Every recognised, independent financial authority predicts austerity measures will outstrip anything experienced over the past five years and still the rose-coloured glasses remain firmly in place.

Fortunately for some, Scotland will still be in the UK so moving away from the eye of the storm will be easier than it would had independence won the day.

Stan Hogarth

Palmerston Place

Edinburgh

i am accused of by David Fiddimore of Zen Buddhism (Letters, 14 April) but it is worse than that: I am supporting the latest Conservative campaign. It was Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy who asked Nicola Sturgeon if she would accept full fiscal autonomy if offered it next year.

Of course she had to say yes, but Jim did not give any details of the offer. It was just a trick question to trigger an attack.

Peter Laidlaw in the same letters page worries about the “desperate defence” of fiscal autonomy, but again with no details.

Fiscal autonomy is a desirable business objective for any organisation as it encourages good decision making.

But David Fiddimore is right: it might be unwise at present unless there is a balancing formula like Barnett to provide safeguards.

That is what I meant by the money coming from the same place as no extra overall UK money is needed.

If the latest Tory posters showing Ed Miliband in Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket prove right, as I hope they will, then I am sure the SNP could negotiate fiscal autonomy with a balancing formula as good or better than Barnett.

This could also be of benefit to Wales.

George Shering

West Acres Drive

Newport-on-Tay

During the last few days of the election campaign the unionist parties have made great play with their point that an independent Scotland (despite independence not being an issue in this election) would face a £7.6 billion black hole in its finances.

Presumably a black hole is the same as a deficit. But the UK as a whole has a deficit of £90bn. So Scotland, as a 10 per cent part of the UK by population, would have a £9bn deficit as its pro rata share.

On this argument an independent Scotland would be better off than it is now. I would genuinely like to know first whether this argument is correct, and, if it is, why is it not used by SNP representatives, including Nicola Sturgeon, when repeatedly harassed on the issue by Jim Murphy and his allies?

Secondly, it would be useful to know what sort of deficits are currently being run by a raft of other Western European countries relative to the size of their populations and economies. This information might enable us finally to put this issue to bed.

John Slee

Hopetoun Terrace

Gullane

It must be a joke if Ed Miliband is indeed right to regard the SNP’s full fiscal autonomy as a threat to public services in Scotland (Dr Scott Arthur, Letters, 13 April).

After all, he was the one of the architects of the £160 billion accumulated budget deficit Labour left in 2010.

The SNP have no responsibility for the cuts we are experiencing – these are at the behest of the Unionist parties, whether in the past coalition, or in the new Westminster government, and the profligacy of Labour’s 13 years caused the need for them.

The paradox is that the next tranche of unionist cuts will facilitate Scotland’s viability.

We have only the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ assessment of a so-called “black hole” of £7.6 billion – these unionist parties, vying for government, seem incapable of calculating their own versions.

It is reasonable to assume that the IFS timing means it has not taken into account the further imminent cuts in public spending that will come whichever party, Labour or Conservative, gains power in May.

Its assumptions must cover both devolved and reserved programmes, including welfare and pensions.

They will not be reflecting the shortfall that we suffer from the operation of the Barnett formula – around £250m per year.

So, with an expected further £5bn cut in Scotland, plus, say, four years more of Barnett squeeze of £1bn, the figure drops to £1.6bn.

So we should be grateful to them for acting as our reducing agent! The £5bn off our £25bn block grant would eliminate our 20 per cent advantage over England!

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent

Currie