How the Lib Dems fared...

Mark Pack - head of innovations for the Liberal Democrats - reports a mixed picture for his party

It's the afternoon after and results are still coming through thick and fast, so - between now slightly drooping eyelids - how does it look for the Liberal Democrats so far?

Taking the four yardsticks I blogged about on Wednesday, the scorecard looks like this so far.

First - Scotland. It looks like our vote is up, but we won't be gaining seats, and there is also a similar picture in Wales. Some individually excellent results, including the mammoth vote increase (+20%) for Tavish Scott in Shetland, are mixed in with the less good.

Second - the key Westminster marginals. This is the very good news for the Liberal Democrats today - with gains from the Conservatives in seats like Winchester, Eastleigh, Westmorland and Lonsdale, Cheadle and Eastbourne. If the Conservatives were set to make major gains from the Liberal Democrats at the next general election, they should have been romping home in seats like this - but they weren't.

In some places there is clearly a very large difference between our results in key constituencies and the Liberal Democrat performance in other nearby areas. Where we have suffered badly, as in Bournemouth, it seems to have been on the back of particular local controversies, but as shown by the relatively good results in Bath - scene of numerous controversies over the spa baths - these can be turned around.

This high level of variation in results from area to area is not just good news for the Liberal Democrats but also in part reflects voters' increasing interest in local circumstances and policies - which causes more variation in voting from area to area. That is bound to be good for democracy, regardless of whether we benefit or suffer from such variation.

Third - how well have the Tories done? They will still be a long way short of the level of local government strength that Labour had after 1996 or the Conservatives had after 1978. And the BBC estimate of their national share of the vote is only up 1% on last year.

Fourth - the Labour / Liberal Democrat contest in the popular vote.
Labour look to have just edged the Liberal Democrats (this time round).

I wrote before that, "the result I'll be looking out for most closely [is] the one where I was involved in a last minute legal scramble to sort out problems with the nomination paperwork. Let's hope that hassle was worth it!" It was - chalk up one Liberal Democrat gain.

Mark Pack is the Head of Innovations for the Lib Dems. He previously worked in their Campaigns & Elections Department for seven years.
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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.