I was avoiding writing this, because it is a complicated economic post, and it may dissuade some SNP members from their enthusiasm, but since I am a bit fed up today, I think I will write it now.
As my Slovenian friend tells me, it is likely that the Uk will say anything to stop Scotland from voting for independence, and there is a huge chunk of the population who find it much easier to simply do as they are told in order to avoid the unexpected. The SNP have always been extremely good at avoiding being left or right, but some of the ice cream policies I mentioned yesterday indicate that they are leaning to the left.
There is nothing at all wrong with leaning to the left, but it is not what you require when you are building a country. Many of the policies they are pursuing today are anti-austerity with good reason – independence is a good idea and they would like you to vote for it.
Having said this, there has to be a firm system of priorities in order to get Scotland to pay for itself in a short period of time. Priorities which are not at all attractive, cuddly or pleasant.
In order to attract investment and create jobs, for example, particularly unskilled jobs, since we lost so many of those after the smoking ban and after the deprioritisation of manufacturing and industry during the Thatcher era, several harsh and ugly decisions have to be made, including:
not being particularly fussy about what gets built on brownfield sites, and reclassifying some greenfield sites to accommodate companies willing to employ people. Objections to developments such as the Pink Flamingo development at Balloch would have to be ignored, and many sleepy beauty spots would have to be developed. Removal of the EU VAT imposition on the refurbishment of often historic property would at least preserve some quality buildings.
welcoming low paid jobs – I have never been a fan of the minimum wage, since I started work without it and out-earned my employer within a fortnight. People have to get on the employment ladder somehow, however for this to work properly it has to be implemented alongside:
radical housing benefit changes, with landlords given incentives for developing their properties in the form of a tie-in between property value and rents. This would also greatly ease the hardship we are about to face in the form of the massive homelessness problem from November, when housing benefit for families is to be capped, and in some cases removed entirely, some estimates are predicting half a million homeless children from November onwards under the Tories. This would also send families out of the city to larger, cheaper properties in areas which need children to keep schools and medical centres going.
awareness of the over-education of the Scottish workforce. As someone who has a very good degree, which I was repeatedly told made me over-qualified in Scotland, and whose friends went to England for their initial post qualifying jobs or stacked shelves, I am all too aware of the number of people in Scotland who have never got to actually use their education. It is all very well becoming a mecca for students but they need to have something to do after they qualify other than gnash their teeth over the welcoming and funding of overseas graduates to encourage them to stay in Scotland when so many of us get nothing out of our pile of debt.
As I have said before, Scotland needs at least one generation of factories in order to beget the second or third generation of supporting services to be able to afford nice policies like the extension of childcare and free prescriptions.
Scotland being welcoming to all – unless you provide a clear plan of how you are going to double the number of jobs and encourage the small to medium size business sector, this will not last long.
Certain sectors, such as engineering and shipbuilding, are greatly aided by coastal commerce, which has been largely destroyed by the EU agreement to disallow Scottish fishing or place it under quota. We have already lost a great deal of the skills we formerly had because of this, and this needs to be rectified.
IT and games manufacture is a good, skill rich area to concentrate on, as is financial services, since the banks in England are looking elsewhere. These are east coast industries at present, and it would be wise to continue with what works.
You cannot simply make popular and worthy sounding policies without paying for them, and indicating to no voters, who are often worried homeowners and forelock tugging employees, that you plan to do this by making their lives more difficult is not likely to make independence a popular option. A clear decisive way of making Scotland pay for itself without oil is something that you should have a team of economists working on plans for NOW rather than later. This is exactly what I mean by ‘ice-cream’ policies – policies that sound worthy, but it is unclear how you envisage this working for the Scottish taxpayer unless there are a lot more of them.
Under Labour, local councils have made polices which mean you are penalised for having savings or owning your house as it is. It is stretching credulity to suppose that Tory leaning No voters are looking fondly at expensive but popular options at this point. It might be wise to provide some reassurance.