Oil is not the fiscal be all and end all

It’s a pity that the generally sound logic of Peter Jones (Perspective, 24 March) appears to desert him whenever he is drawn to comment on the future prospects of an independent Scotland, or “Home Rule” (read fiscal autonomy) as promised prior to the referendum.

With the passing of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, Peter Jones and those who wish to sustain the failing and corrupt “Westminster establishment” should reflect on the relative economic success of a small island state with virtually no natural resources, never mind oil or gas, that even has to import its tap water.

It is nearly 50 years since Singapore became independent of Malaysia, a status that many considered would lead to disaster for the new republic, especially given the likely economic hostility of the vastly more populous and resource-rich surrounding states. Certainly Singapore’s initial success was built on acceptance of effectively a single-party state in which public discipline was rigorously enforced, but gradually this truly multi-racial society, with all of its inherent tensions, appears to be making democratic progress without compromising its laudable stand against corruption.

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Unless I am mistaken, Mr Jones and those who consistently seek to denigrate the SNP through their letters, did not advocate independence, fiscal autonomy, or even the establishment of an oil fund, throughout the 40 years when oil revenues strongly underpinned the UK economy.

Yet as soon as there is a “hiccup”, albeit a significant one, in the oil price, these thoughtful gentlemen pronounce Scotland to be an economic “basket case” that cannot survive without the supposed “altruism” of our large neighbour.

Surely if there is any logic to their concerns the sooner we part from this debilitating relationship the better it will be for Scotland in the long term, whatever economic obstacles confront us along the way.

We owe it to future generations not to bequeath them a fundamental sense of dependency on others instead of confident belief in themselves.

Stan Grodynski


East Lothian

Maybe Raymond Paul (Letters, 24 March) and Joe Darby before him are confusing oil revenue and oil taxes. North Sea oil has been of immense benefit to the UK in balance of payments terms, whether by direct revenue or by imports saved. What remains will be of great value to an independent Scotland even if the tax income is zero.

It was nice to see the balance of payments mentioned by MA Underwood, same page. In the 1950s and 60s The Scotsman was filled with impending doom about the balance of payments crisis. Elections were fought on it. Now it stands at £36 billion a year and nobody seems to bat an eyelid!

Governments could go bust over tax revenues, but don’t worry, they always find ways of raising taxes, from Matthew the tax collector to Robert Burns the customs man.

But countries can go bust if the balance of payments persists too long. Raising external revenue to fix the balance of payments is a lot more difficult than raising taxes.

Scottish oil, milk and renewable energy may come at higher than world prices, but if we replace them with Saudi oil, Dutch milk and French nuclear energy where will we get the foreign exchange?

We are already selling off our firms, Wolfson and Optos for example, our football clubs, our estates and castles just to keep the balance of payments deficit down. However can we pay the accumulated foreign debt?

Scotland’s good showing in exports, including import substitution, could be a reason why the unionists are so desperate not to “lose Scotland”.

George Shering

West Acres Drive

Newport-on-Tay, Fife