One of the lamest taunts aimed at Scotland’s just political ambitions – unionist barbs rarely rise above a snotty grunt – is the one about independence reducing Scotland to “a basket case like Greece”. This insult was thrown at us at the same time as England’s millionaires pleaded we stay with them, not literarily with them, they choose their house guests carefully. No, stay with England for the greater glory of the Empire.
This is a paradox. England rules Scotland, accuses it of being a subsidy junky yet England controls Scotland’s economy. The United Kingdom is one of the wealthiest nations on the planet and somehow Scotland, an integral part of it, allegedly lives off subsidies. Union zealots cannot see the contradiction.
It’s worth taking a stroll to compare Scotland with Greece.
Greek employment versus Scottish employment
Greece today has 20 per-cent unemployment, the highest in Europe. It would be higher still if it were not for the loss of a tenth of the working-age population to emigration. Scotland’s unemployment is a mere 4 per-cent. Indeed, it has been steadily dropping. Employment is at near record levels. Real world take-home pay is squeezed, of course, in these days of imposed austerity, but that is not the fault of the Scottish government.
Against a rotten British neo-liberal ideology Scotland’s employment figures are startling. Salaries in England are similarly squeezed, unless you are in corporate banking, own a successful company, or head a university, in which case your take home pay can be anything you want it to be. Think of number and multiply it by one hundred.
Poverty and lack of opportunity no longer drives Scots to live elsewhere. For the first time in our history we have a population over 5 million, a great deal of that increase immigrants, a healthy development for a small country desperately keen on new talent taking up residence while its indigenous population ages.
IMF projections predict unemployment in Greece will remain in the double digits well into the 2040s. That is a tragedy. How did Greece reach the point where it finds itself?
One aspect is its reliance on tourism. Tourism is probably its biggest industry, followed by shipping, and fruit and vegetables, not counting theft of its national treasures. Though Scotland has a huge tourist industry it isn’t it’s main money maker. And Scotland’s exports rise to the hundreds of billions annually.
Those on the Right who dismiss Greece – usually for its left-wing sympathies – overlook it was an ally in the Second World War against Germany and maintained a resistance movement throughout invasion. For its sacrifice it was denied a share in the US Marshall Plan. The US refused to help a dedicated socialist government, another example of meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state.
Although Germany reimbursed nations it devastated or looted instructed to do so by the Reparation Act of Versailles for the First World War and then again after the Second, it resisted Greece’s claims, adding to the seat of democracy’s mounting financial woes.
The Greek ruling party, Syriza, under prime minister Alexis Tsipras, has complained bitterly and consistently to Angela Merkel of Germany’s unfulfilled wartime duty.
Berlin did pay some reparation. It paid 115m Deutschmarks to Athens in 1960 in part-compensation. It was a fraction of the Greek demand made on condition there would be no more claims. Greece says the 1960 deal did not cover key demands, including payments for damaged infrastructure, war crimes, and the return of a forced loan exacted from occupied Greece. They were short-changed. No one knows how much Scotland got from the UK’s share of the Marshall Plan. No figures are available.
The ‘lost’ amount of Greece’s €279 billion was identified recently by Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas, based on calculations by Greece’s General Accounting Office. The sum includes €10.3 billion Greece wants as compensation for the forced loan – meaning at the point of a rifle – that the Nazis extorted from the Bank of Greece.
Scotland is not allowed to borrow
Scotland is not allowed to incur any debt. We have no borrowing powers, not even a few quid for a sly bet in William Hill’s with money from a Pay Day Loan. Unionists must feel sick as a budgie realising Scotland lives frugally. We live off the annual allowance we get through the Barnett Formula. As punishment for our rebellious nature Westminster reduced the allowance year by year.
Britain received the greatest amount from the Marshall Plan, over $3,300 million, or put another way, a bail out that had to be repaid – and yet managed to face bankruptcy three times since. It repaid the debt as late as 2006.
Head still filled with delusions of grandeur, the UK governments of the day squandered the largess on running the last of its empire and Commonwealth, refusing to invest in modernising British industry. For example, they gave Sir William Lyons founder of Jaguar Cars a knighthood and then allowed his company sold to Tata of India. They’d sell off Scotland given half a chance and a bag of sticky buns from Greggs.
Since the Second World War Scotland has remained solvent and still is, and on an allowance some contend is less than a quarter of the wealth taken from it each year.
Greece began its renaissance after the devastation of the Second World War greatly disadvantaged in comparison to the UK, or indeed Italy and Spain. Those nations got millions from the US Plan, Spain while it toiled under the strutting vanity of Franco.
Scotland is a wealthy nation
It is inane for halberd toting unionists to refer to Scotland’s economy as if that of Greece. Together with Nobel winning economists and their honourable English colleagues Scotland is aware of its wealth. And should we decide to begin independence with no share of the UK’s debts – currently reaching £2 trillion – it will be king among small nations. No longer would we need finance interest on debts dumped in our pockets.
Scotland lives within its means. It neither needs nor asks for a bailout loan. England needs to keep hold of Scotland taxes and wealth.
Greece’s multiple rounds of bailouts and “reform” packages left its GDP a quarter below pre-crisis levels, and it will not regain the lost ground until around 2030. The Greek government is committed to sending 3.5 per-cent of national income abroad to its creditors annually for the indefinite future.
Scotland’s only problem is it does not have the constitutional right to keep what it earns. Whatever poor financial weather hits England, Scotland can’t protect itself for long … unless independent.
England dreams on and on … on subsidies
Here we are in Brexitland, England dreaming it can be a self-sufficient world power again, pontificating at the centre of international affairs. That’s the same attitude it had when it tossed away the money from the Marshall Plan, losing it on keeping up appearances as an empire. It did it again in the 1980s when it used the North Sea oil rake-off as its main subsidy.
The irony is, Greece already had a primary surplus – its revenues more than enough to fund expenses other than debt service costs. Once its EU lenders burdened Greece with draconian interest charges and deadlines the arithmetic collapsed.
Let’s stop using unionist parlance. Scotland’s constitutional ambition isn’t separation. How can it be with so many living in each other’s countries? Paradoxically, Scotland finds itself in the urgent position of de-integration to reassert its sovereignty over how it spends its wealth. Scotland can create a model in which economic ties are managed in the service of both nations not only for England’s benefit.
The UK has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for decades. The 2008 bank crisis only drew attention to its perilous state. Come independence Britain will have to face reality and give up her expensive global strategic commitments and accept that she is now a second-class power.
Out of the EU, without Scotland’s oil and taxes, there is no more subsidy for the UK. If an isolationist England ever gets into trouble it means turning to the USA once more for a hand-out.
Accordingly, next time unionists cry ‘subsidy junkies’ they’re not talking about Greece or Scotland. They’re talking about England.