Saturday, May 31, 2014

Counting the cost of independence

When people complain about how much the Queen earns, or the expense of the civil list in general, what's almost always behind it is not a belief that the British monarchy could do things more cheaply but rather a disapproval of the idea of having a monarchy at all.  The same is true of the current argument about how much setting up the the infrastructure of an independent Scotland would cost.  'Alex Salmond is under increasing pressure to reveal the likely start-up costs of independence'?  Well, I dare say he is but what good would it do if he did because he doesn't have a clue.  Neither does HM Treasury, nor Professor Dunleavy.  Nobody knows what is going to happen in the event of the unravelling of a three-hundred year-old Union and surely I am not alone in growing more than a little tired of those who believe they do?  I am more likely to believe the higher estimates than the lower simply because that tends to be the pattern with government projects.  The most obviously relevant example here is the construction of the Holyrood parliament building.  It was completed at around 10 times the originally estimated cost - but since I supported devolution, the price of it was not the decisive factor.

The same is true of Scottish independence.  I have absolutely no doubt that the cost of disentangling Scotland from the Union will be more expensive than the Nationalists estimate.  This is not entirely irrelevant given their disingenuous protestations about public spending cuts but fundamentally it is not at the core of the issue.  No, it doesn't matter what it costs; even if it can be done cheaply, setting up the infrastructure of an independent Scotland is for us not worth a red cent because we do not believe it is a very good idea.

I wish people had read to the end of the FT editorial that was quoted by both sides in this particular indy-spat.  [I'll quote from the paper copy rather than providing a direct link to the piece, if you don't mind.]
"These sterile exchanges may fill column inches with accusations and counter accusations.  But they must not decide the outcome.  More is at stake this September than hypothetical arguments about pounds, shillings and pence.  In the heat of the battle, Britain's politicians should not forget the deeper ties of history and shared political experience that link us."
That it is the Financial Times exhorting us to be less narrowly economistic should give more people pause.  As it is, the cost of independence can be measured more easily in the quantum growth in bullshit we've witnessed recently, rather than in pounds sterling.

1 comment:

Phil said...

hypothetical arguments about pounds, shillings and pence

Salmond's bringing back the old money? I'd vote for that!

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