Breaking news!

Guardian and Indy pick up on the New Statesman's five-day-old story about easyJet

Guardian and Indy pick up on the New Statesman's five-day-old story about easyJet{C}

We're delighted, of course, that Stephen Morris's scoop about easyJet withdrawing the latest issue of their in-flight magazine after pressure from the New Statesman should have been picked up by so many news outlets. But we're perplexed that two of the more venerable organs to have run with the story should apparently only just have happened upon it, almost a week after Stephen first broke it on newstatesman.com, and then without acknowledging our role in uncovering it in the first place.

Yesterday, the Guardian reported that the "budget airline . . . has been forced to withdraw almost 300,000 copies of its in-flight magazine because of protests over its use of Holocaust memorial sites as a backdrop for a fashion feature." And today, with the alacrity for which it is famous, the Independent has weighed in, noting that easyJet "had been accused of "trivialising genocide" when eight pages of the November issue of its Traveller magazine featured models leaning against the stones of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin, also known as the Field of Stelae."

All true, of course. But, for the benefit of any Guardian and Independent readers who might happen to have dropped by, let me fill in one or two gaps. The "protests" that the Guardian refers to emanated in the first instance from the New Statesman, after Stephen contacted the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to ask if they'd sanctioned the photo-shoot. And the accusation that the feature "triviali[sed]" genocide came from Labour MP Denis MacShane after he was alerted to easyJet's breach of good taste by the New Statesman.

Just so we're clear ...

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.