Sarah Palin and the LL Cool J saga

Real American Stories airs tonight!

The furore around Sarah Palin's new Fox vehicle, Real American Stories, has been well documented. Is LL Cool J in or out? Are any of the interviews real? Is it all a bit ironic that the show's title is Real American Stories?

But has anyone checked out the show's own website? Please do so here.

There are many wonderful things about this promotional vehicle. So I'm going to pick my top three.

1. The Palin introductory video. There's so much here -- the filmic soundtrack, the first line ("As Americans, we aspire to greatness." Really? All of you? How exhausting), the strange moment when she's talking about entrepreneurialism and a guy selling beetroot (?) pulls a funny face. But above all that there's a brilliant, brief moment of synchrony between words and pictures as Palin says "our love of country" and the film cuts to a shot of soldiers firing machine-guns as they pound through an unidentified desert war. It's one way of expressing the love, I suppose.

2. Chase Lucas. One of the videos submitted to Fox and hosted on the site. Wow. This is one patriotic child.

3. The comments. I can't believe they meant to leave the comment thread so enticingly open beneath the Palin film. A choice extract: "Biggest waste of television ever." To counterbalance: "You liberals are pathetic." Yup, there's some pretty hectic debate going on over there . . .

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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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.