In this week’s New Statesman: Burma’s silent agitator

Noam Chomsky on Latin America | Osborne’s deadly cuts | David Remnick interview.

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Aung San Suu Kyi may be unable to take part in Burma's elections this year but in this week's cover story, Peter Popham argues that she remains the most potent force resisting the rule of the generals. Meanwhile, Noam Chomsky looks at what the west can learn from Latin America's enduring struggle against neoliberalism and US domination.

Elsewhere, our top columnists give their verdict on George Osborne's first Budget. David Blanchflower warns that Osborne's dramatic spending cuts could tip Britain back into recession and Mehdi Hasan says that the Chancellor's decision to hit the poor with tax rises proves that the Nasty Party never went away.

In the Critics, Rachel Cooke explains where the latest John Lennon biopic went wrong and Ryan Gilbey reviews new films by Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola.

Also don't miss a rare interview with David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, who tells us why Team Obama turned on him.

The issue is on sale now, or you can subscribe through the website.

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George Eaton is political 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.