The SNP’s Growth Commission report begins with some inspirational quotes, including this from Goethe: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”
After reading this report, it’s easy to see why exhortations to be bold are required. Any independence supporters hoping for the mendacious bravado of the Brexiteers’ successful campaign – thin on facts, but thick with half-truths and wild assertions – will be disappointed.
The details will doubtless be poured over by economic experts in the coming days, but at first reading it appears to be a genuine attempt to lay out the economic effects of independence by people who want that to happen. So there is the optimistic suggestion that it would be “possible” for an independent Scotland to eventually match the success of a group of “12 small advanced economies” – including Ireland, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland – and boost GDP by the equivalent of £4,100 per person.
That figure was trailed ahead of the report’s launch, but the document itself stresses it is “important that independence must never be seen as a magic wand or quick and easy step to success. Indeed, there is no pot of gold, black or otherwise, at the foot of the independence rainbow”.
It suggests the early years of independence would be fairly tough. It would cost £450 million to set up the new state, which would start with an annual budget deficit of six per cent. Scotland would pay the UK about £5 billion a year to honour its share of the existing UK national debt and joint commitments like international aid.
It would take up to ten years of curbs on public spending – sensible budgeting not “the austerity model pursued by UK in recent years” – to bring that deficit under control. And matching those small advanced economies could take up to 25 years.
Whether this report will stand the scrutiny it will now be subjected to remains to be seen. Heaven help the SNP if this is the sugar-coated version.
However it does seem to be the kind of analysis that needs to be done to enable Scots to make informed judgements about independence. Because if we are to have a second independence referendum, we must go into it with our eyes open, not blind in the manner of Brexit’s leap into the unknown.