New Statesman Ai Weiwei guest edit shortlisted at the British Media Awards

Nominated for Cross-Media Project Of The Year.

An issue of the New Statesman has been nominated for Cross-Media Project Of The Year at the British Media Awards.

The 22 October issue, guest-edited by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, is up for the award. The issue was themed around China and its future, and was published simultaneously in Chinese (digitally) and in English. Unusually, we urged people to share and download the magazine for free so as to spread Ai's words as widely as possible.

Ai Weiwei is an internationally renowned artist and a free speech advocate. He was detained by the government for 81 days last year on charges of tax evasion, is still prevented from leaving the country and is currently appealing a fine imposed by the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau for $1.85m.

The issue featured, among other things, an interview with blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, a conversation with one of China's "paid trolls", a photo essay curated by Ai himself and a leader in which the Chinese artist addressed the lack of freedom and the oppression in his country.

The New Statesman is nominated alongside The Times, Metro, Racing Post, PwC, Paperhat, Nature and Rivergroup.

Cover portrait by Gao Yuan for Ai Weiwei Studio.

 

Ai Weiwei guestedited the New Statesman on 22 October 2012.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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.