Former Labour minister Tom Watson was one of the 13 rebels. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour welfare cap rebels: the full list

Thirteen Labour MPs, including Diane Abbott and Tom Watson, voted against George Osborne's new cap on welfare spending.

In the end, the Labour rebellion over George Osborne's new cap on welfare spending (which The Staggers revealed details of on Monday) was smaller than most predicted, with 13 voting against the measure, including Diane Abbott and Tom Watson (22 MPs voted against in total, with 520 in favour).

But it's worth noting that some would-be rebels were away at a funeral and that party sources may well have inflated the likely number of dissenters in an attempt to manage expectations (a figure of 25 was mentioned at one point). It's also likely that at least some MPs were persuaded by the whips not to vote against the measure on the grounds that it won't automatically result in any new cuts and that a future Labour government could amend the cap as it sees fit.

The policy won't take effect until 2015-16 (the limit has been set at £119.5bn for that year) and is largely intended as a political trap for the opposition. It's for this reason that Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet ministers have been unambiguous in their support for the measure today. It's also why some MPs, most notably Diane Abbott, who made a fiercely critical speech during the debate, couldn't stomach voting with the Tories. At a time when many of their constituents are suffering the effects of benefits cuts, they regard Osborne's attempt to perpetuate a false divide beteen "strivers" and "scroungers" as politics of the lowest kind.

Here's a list of the 13 Labour MPs who voted against the cap:

Diane Abbott

Ronnie Campbell

Katy Clark

Michael Connarty

Jeremy Corbyn

Kelvin Hopkins

Glenda Jackson

John McDonnell

George Mudie

Linda Riordan

Dennis Skinner

Tom Watson

Mike Wood

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.