Coca-cola sucks Christmas into its terrifying maw

The ADgenda: This week's most alarming advert.

It must get a bit dull being the world's leading brand. No need for inventive or expensive advertising campaigns when the product you're touting is quaffed by the bucketload by a significant proportion of the world's population. Consequently, Coke has plumped for world domination, focusing their advertising efforts on strong-arming the few remaining stragglers who haven't embraced their sugary world view.

So it is that everyone's hotly anticipated festive moment - the Coke ad - has taken a decidedly creepy turn. A determined Father Christmas stomps through the snow, slapping a note on a mysterious giant present that reads "For those who don't believe". We cut to a drab cityscape, with a lone girl chugging on a Coke bottle only to be interrupted by a thump outside the window - run to look outside and there's a massive present nestling in the snow. The ribbons fall off and inside sits a giant puppet Father Christmas, who pulls off his restraints and rears up to his full terrifying height.

Serving as a reminder of Coke's pervasive presence the world over Father Cokemas stalks the streets winking knowingly at all the non-believers. He's got your number.

Things were already taking a sinister turn when Christmas was heralded by a fleet of honking lorries breaking the idyllic quiet of a snow-scene while a creepy choir chanted "Holidays are coming". But such was the potency of the sugary stuff that this did nothing to dissuade the global population with Coke sales maintaining their constant high and head office fielding calls from disgruntled customers clamouring for the return of the seasonal ad when it briefly left our screens for a couple of years - for them, Christmas wasn't Christmas without the brown stuff.  In the 21st century Coke IS christmas, HGVs and all. Are you one of the non-believers? Father Cokemas is coming to get you…

WTF? Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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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.