Whether the constitutional debate is about independence or devomax, the issue that is dominant concerns our funding and our economy; matters that are reserved to Westminster. So consideration has to centre on the cuts in public spending which emanated from Labour’s tenure there from 1997 to 2010, and what the repercussions are for Scotland.
At the start of the 2010 general election campaign, public sector borrowing was assessed at £178bn, although within days, that reduced by £22bn to about £156bn, which raises questions about the Labour government’s monitoring system.
The Labour opposition shows some opportunism, and a great deal of audacity, in claiming the cuts are “too much and too fast”, while at the same time accusing the coalition of increasing the level of borrowing. They cannot have it both ways – slower cuts predicate more borrowing. And their speculation about the “legacy” they will inherit at the next election defies credibility.
In the post-war years, the unionist parties poured extra money, beyond due budgetary propriety, into Scotland to thwart the SNP threat. So, we had a 20 per cent per capita spending advantage over England on the comparable services. There is some irony in unionist parties being responsible for that, and in unionist parties now taking it out.
Driven by artificially low interest rates, and a credit-driven GDP, opportunities for current growth were purloined by the Labour government during its 13 years.
Only when that debt has been eroded will some kind of viability return.
That will enable the Scottish government to avoid returning to an over-loaded public sector, and to have an optimum level of service commensurate with the state of the economy. And it would render politicians answerable and accountable to the electorate, an element that is absent at present.
All things considered, in the context of the referendum, the status quo is not an option.
Douglas R Mayer