The Home Office continues scaring the shit out of immigrants

"Go home or face arrest", says a new poster campaign.

The Home Office is to drive billboards warning migrants to "go home or face arrest" around London this week, in the latest attempt to instil fear in the hearts of immigrants. The news follows on from their oppressive Twitter campaign showing pictures of immigrants being bundled into the back of vans with captions like "no hiding place for illegal immigrants".

The Evening Standard's Martin Bentham reports:

The billboards will also display the number of illegal migrants arrested recently in the relevant part of the capital.

Ministers say that the hardline message is intended to encourage visa overstayers or others here unlawfully to return voluntarily.

The vans will be driven around the London boroughs of Ealing, Barnet, Hounslow, Brent, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham, in an effort to strike fear into the hearts of migrants. The six boroughs have been chosen, according to Bentham, because "they currently have either high or low numbers of voluntary returns".

The full billboard reads:

In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice, and help with travel documents. We can help you to return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention.

It's not difficult to draw comparisons with the latest anti-migrant campaign in Australia, where Cameron's chief political strategist Lynton Crosby cut his teeth. There, the ruling Labour party has started running posters in major newspapers with the slogan "If you come here by boat without a visa you won't be settled in Australia". Many have pointed out that the fact that the slogan is aimed at potential migrants but run in Australian newspapers means that the real aim of the campaign is Australian voters, who like hearing that their government is tough on immigration.

Is the same true here? At least the poster due to be driven around outer London has a chance of being seen by its supposed targets, and according to Bentham:

The new advert will also be displayed on posters and on leaflets distributed to money transfer shops, internet cafes and other places where migrants congregate.

Of course, if anyone who isn't an illegal immigrant should happen to see the poster and decide to vote Tory because of it, well, that would be too bad, wouldn't it?

Photograph: Gov.UK

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.