Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. It's not the names that matter but the policies (Independent)

Only two reshuffles in 30 years have made a big difference to the fate of a government, writes Steve Richards.

2. Now Obama must build the case for government (Financial Times)

The president will have to avoid treading on the American dream, writes Gideon Rachman.

3. The cracks between the two Eds could swallow Labour’s hopes (Daily Telegraph)

Like Midas, the Labour leader appears to have it all – but he must show where the power lies, says Mary Riddell.

4. Free schools are a disaster (Guardian)

Michael Gove's flagship policy is a huge waste of money, socially divisive and won't raise educational standards, argues Francis Gilbert.

5. We deserve better than this yoni-centric claptrap (Independent)

Claims that the vagina is 'part of the female soul' are, frankly, insulting, says Laurie Penny.

6. These angry Tories can't see what 'no alternative' means (Guardian)

So blinded by dogma are they that the reality of the cuts to come has not yet hit home with Cameron's critics, writes Polly Toynbee. But it soon will.

7. The US economy may surprise us all (Financial Times)

Five factors suggest a coming surge in growth, writes Roger Altman.

8. Game changer? No, more an echo chamber (Times) (£)

David Cameron’s reshuffle today will be secateurs in the Rose Garden rather than a Night of the Long Knives, says Rachel Sylvester.

9. We must shift science out of the geek ghetto (Daily Telegraph)

Britain’s future rests on taking numbers seriously, says Liz Truss.

10. The Gentle Tory is alive and well – on television (Guardian)

Period dramas like Parade's End reveal a yearning for a conservative type that politics has left behind, says David Priestland.

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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.