Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

  1. Twitter's inadequate action over rape threats is itself an abuse (Guardian)
    Social media users should act to take back Twitter, writes Labour MP Stella Creasy.
  2. Europe ought to let its hopeless causes go bankrupt (Financial Times)
    The cure for the crisis is a dose of American-style tough love, writes Martin Sandbu
  3. I'm proud of our welfare reforms (Guardian)
    I don't apologise for trying to make the welfare state fair – it's something only this government can do, writes the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.
  4. Mo’s breaking records, but other migrants are breaking the law (Telegraph)
    Immigrants have a lot to offer Britain, but those here illegally have no right to remain, writes Boris Johnson.
  5. Trolls, Caroline Criado-Perez, and how to tackle the dark side of Twitter (Independent)
    The site should make it easier for users to report rape and death threats, writes Owen Jones.
  6. Europe’s 'recovery’ is a conjuring trick (Telegraph)
    The eurozone has had a good year – on paper. But it is crippled by too much debt to survive intact, says Jeff Randall
  7. At last internet trolls must face the real world (Times)
    Fury over Twitter abuse of the Jane Austen banknote campaigner shows how online behaviour is having to change, writes Libby Purves.
  8. There has been no good news for Britain’s army of underemployed workers (Independent)
    The underemployment rate rose more quickly than the unemployment rate in Q1 2013, writes David Blanchflower
  9. Five ways to widen the Tory appeal and win (Times)
    Victory in 2015 is possible if the party can rediscover its popular touch with these pledges to lower-income voters, says Tim Montgomerie
  10. West needs to criticise Putin – but not support his rivals (Financial Times)
    It is not our business to pick sides in Russia’s political battles, writes Anatol Lieven.

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.