Economic lookahead: w/c 12 March

Unemployment figures released, second Greek bailout discussed, and goldbugs debating at the IEA.

Monday

  • Eurozone finance ministers meet, and are expected to approve the second Greek bailout now that the country has fulfilled it requirements by convincing creditors to drop more than €100bn of debt'
  • UN World Water Development Report says demand for water is threatening all major development targets.
  • World Travel & Tourism Council say that air passenger duty is costing the UK economy billions.
  • Centre for Economics & Business Research blame rising commodity prices for a fall in real disposeable income in the UK.
  • FSB's Voice of Small Business Index released.

 

Tuesday

  • Annual review of the inflation basket. Previous years have seen the introduction of Blu-ray players and flatscreen TV's, and the merging of "women's trousers" and "women's skirts".
  • OECD harmonised unemployment rates; released the day before the UK's own unemployment figures, these serve as a useful international comparator.
  • Department for Communities and Local Government release their house price index. The only government-collated house price index, these will be the figures to use to examine the NewBuy program.
  • ONS releases the UK trade figures.

 

Wednesday

  • UK unemployment figures released. Expected to show a rise in unemployment and youth unemployment.
  • Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary, will be up in front of the European Scrutiny Committee talking about the eurozone debt crisis.
  • Consumer Credit Counselling Service will release their annual statistical yearbook. Personal debt has fallen out of the spotlight, but there's growing consensus that if there is another debt crisis, this is the sector it will fall upon.
  • Lord Turner, chairman of the FSA, will interviewed by the Treasury Select Committee about mortgages.

 

Thursday

  • OECD launch their report on the medium term environmental outlook.
  • IEA host a discussion on the return to the gold standard, 6:30pm, London.
  • Debate on lowering the price of motherhood at the Resolution Foundation, 10:30am, London.
  • IMF board to discuss the second Greek bailout.

 

Friday

  • Financial policy committee of the Bank of England to meet.
  • Japan releases its monthly economic report.

 

The basket of goods which determines inflation is set to change. Credit: Getty

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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.