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The five must-read posts from today, on the election date, Rod Liddle and Vince Cable

1. Bob Ainsworth doesn't reveal election decision

Over at Comment Central, Daniel Finkelstein says the Defence Secretary hasn't given away the date of the election; he was making an educated guess, like the rest of us. The only person who knows when the election will be is Gordon Brown.

2. The politics of evil

Hopi Sen argues that the problem with David Cameron's speech on the Edlington case was not the purpose, but the content. A speech that promised to answer some "pretty deep questions" turned out to be a laundry list of existing Tory policies.

3. Indie journos send coded messages to Rod Liddle

Liberal Conspiracy's Sunny Hundal suggests that a favourable article in the Independent on Mary Seacole, the celebrated black Victorian nurse, was intended to be a wind-up to Rod Liddle, potential Indie editor.

4. Tony Blair to receive £££ from Tory hedge fund

The FT's Westminster blog reports that Blair is to become a paid speaker on foreign policy for Lansdowne Partners. And it points out that Paul Ruddock, co-founder of this hedge fund, is a prominent Tory donor.

5. Cable sets out economic vision, but tax policy could be more "radical"

Vince Cable admits that the Lib Dems' tax cut plans aren't as redistributive as tax credits, reports Left Foot Forward.

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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.