Cameron warns child abuse scandal could become a "witch-hunt" against gay people

How the PM responded to being shown a list of three Tories accused of involvement.

David Cameron was visibly unsettled when Phillip Schofield handed him a list of three Conservatives accused of involvement in the child abuse scandal during his appearance on This Morning, and he may come to regret his response. "There is a danger that this could turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay," Cameron said.

By suggesting that some on the list "are gay", the Prime Minister has inadvertently encouraged further speculation over their identity. But it is with Schofield, who showed gross irresponsibility by asking Cameron to comment on a list based on internet rumour, that the blame must rest. After warning against a "witch-hunt", Cameron added: "I'm worried about the sort of thing you're doing right now, giving me a list of names that you've taken off the internet".

Earlier this week, Labour MP Susan Elan Jones asked the government to assure her that any member of the House of Lords found guilty of child abuse would be "stripped of their peerage" in what many saw as a deliberate attempt to hint at the identity of one of the alleged abusers. Theresa May has warned MPs that using parliamentary privilege to name those accused of involvement could jeopardise any future trial.

David Cameron made his remarks during an appearance on ITV show This Morning. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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.