Oh the larks

This looks like an incredible amount of fun, if you like water slides

Which I do! (Like water slides.) Although I don't really like risking my life that much. But what the heck? Essentially, if you did this successfully you'd be under the impression you were immortal, so that would make up for the terrifyingly close brush with death you'd just experienced. Anyway, enough existential analysis of something very simple and fun. Thank you, Germany.


Does it throw a dampener on the whole thing to discover that it's a Microsoft viral campaign? Yes and no. Initially, yes. But then, once you've watched it again, a big fat NO. Watching a nutter splosh into a paddling pool does not, strangely enough, make me want to dress myself from head to toe in Microsoft products (although I'm imagining this now: PowerPoint presentations dangling from my ears, dress made out of Microsoft Office CDs, hat of Excel spreadsheets perched on my head).

I digress. The point is, I thought a big watery ramp might be the best possible way of signing off for a week. I'm going on holiday. While away, I intend to: a) construct a record-breaking water slide for my own amusement and b) spend at least 70 per cent of the time contemplating my impending doom. Oh, happy times!

Sophie Elmhirst is features 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.