The switch to digital: a headf*ck for the car industry

Radios come attached.

The issue of the great switchover to digital radio is a tricky one to solve for the car industry.

At home, simply buying a new DAB radio, listening through the internet or even through your TV will solve the problem when the analogue signal is switched off, but all of these are a bit more tricky in the car, which is where plenty of the radio listening audience resides.

So it will be a while yet before a timescale is even set out for the turn-off, but it's another factor that should be taken into consideration when speccing new vehicles, as you can guarantee that the issue will be a whole lot higher up the consciousness of used buyers three or four years from now than it is at the moment.

And rather than boosting the used values for vehicles fitted with radios, it seems likely that those without will find their values dropping.

At present, only BMW, Mini and Jaguar offer a digital radio as standard with every model they sell in the UK, with BMW only as of January and having put the price of the cars up to cover the additional kit. Land Rover is also there with the exception of the entry Range Rover Sport, according to the comprehensive data provided to us by Kwik Carcost, and there are a few isolated commendable standard fitments across the range, such as the new Vauxhall Adam and the Zafira Tourer, as well as various Mercedes and VW models, while Ford is also at the forefront of offering the technology.

But worryingly, at this stage nearly a dozen of the biggest business car brands in the UK don't even offer a digital radio as an option on any model in their range. The car industry has some changing to do. And fast.
 

This article first appeared on BusinessCar.

Photograph: Getty Images

Paul Barker is group automotive editor at BusinessCar.co.uk.

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.