Anarchist group smashed window of Barnardo's for thing it didn't do

FAI claim Barnardo's "fund and administrate" a detention centre. Which they don't.

Via @jodelka on Twitter, the group which smashed the windows of a branch of Barnardo's in Brixton during the Monday night celebration of Margaret Thatcher's death has released a statement about why they did it. The "Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI)" writes on Indymedia:

On the celebration of Thatcher's death, we smashed a window of Barnardo's 'charity shop' in Brixton using a concrete slab from a bin on the street. And it was easy. We would of done more if it weren't for self-proclaimed pacifists violently attempting to arrest us.

This action was in solidarity with all migrants detained, deported and struggling to cross borders. Barnardo's was targeted because they fund and administrate Cedars detention centre in Croydon. They detain children, families and individuals who merely seek freedom from poverty, persecution, murder, rape and other oppression the borders.

Barnardo's do not, in fact "fund and administrate Cedars detention centre".

The group provides welfare services to children detained in the facility, which is officially "pre-departure accommodation" housing families due to be deported from the UK. A Barnardo's spokesperson told Civilsociety.co.uk:

Barnardo’s simply provides welfare and social work services there. We believe every family and child should be treated with dignity and respect and be able to access high-quality support.

There is a pressure group, Barnardo's Out, who feel that this is too much. When Barnardo's took the contract, the group set out seven "red lines" which would prompt it to "raise concerns… speak out and ultimately if we have to… withdraw our services", and Barnardo's Out argues that those red lines have been crossed without prompting action from the charity.

It should be noted that there's no hint of a direct link between Barnardo's Out and FAI. In fact, maybe if there was, the latter wouldn't have made quite such a ludicrous claim in their statement.

The smashed Barnardo's. Photograph: Getty Images

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.