Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

  1. Why these cults of hate beguile the lost boys (Times)
    Whether it is radical Islam or street gangs, powerless, alienated teenagers need protection from false certainties, writes Janice Turner
  2. Tim Cook: Apple’s quiet leader (Financial Times)
    A defence of the tech group’s tax affairs has boosted the chief’s profile, writes Tim Bradshaw.
  3. Woolwich attack: When killers strike, should we listen to what they say? (Guardian)
    Just as Breivik's views on Islam did not deserve a hearing by the right, so the left should not use Woolwich to make its case on foreign policy, writes Jonathan Freedland.
  4. Dave must move against the Tory dark forces (Times)
    Every time the PM moves to the Right, they want more. Unless he makes an example of a malcontent he is doomed, writes Matthew Parris
  5. The West is fighting on behalf of ordinary Muslims – and winning (Telegraph)
    Our enemies are utterly misguided in their denunciation of Britain’s interventions overseas, writes Con Coughlin.
  6. Nigel Farage bombed in Edinburgh – what does that really tell us about Scottish antipathy to the English? (Guardian)
    It could be to do with class more than nationality, writes Ian Jack
  7. Dogma will always lead to murder. In the end, scepticism is the only answer (Independent)
    The Woolwich killers were certain that faith supported their actions, writes A C Grayling.
  8. The fate of Sally Bercow suggests it's all to easy to side with the baying mob (Telegraph)
    The ill-judged clamour over Lord McAlpine swept many of us to a false conclusion, writes Graeme Archer.
  9. Farewell, Shameless. Your heirs have work to do (Independent)
    The undeserving poor – the feckless, the workshy, the scrounging – are the exception, not the norm. If only our television screens reflected that, writes Owen Jones.
  10. Britain is at risk of creating another housing bubble (Financial Times)
    The chancellor should be working to build homes, not push prices up further, writes Chris Giles

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

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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.