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The New Statesman’s Scottish referendum coverage

We’ll be here all night!

Here at the NS, it feels like we’ve been talking and writing about the Scottish referendum for a very long time now – so much so, in fact, that it’s hard to believe that the day itself has now arrived, and we are less than 24 hours from knowing the result.

In October 2011, a week before the Scottish general election, we published a leader warning Westminster (particularly Labour) that a strategy for independence was well underway, and they would do well to pay attention to it. Since then, the magazine has had major interviews with Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling (Alex Salmond also interviewed Judy Murray for us), done a special Scotland issue, and run a steady stream of essays and commentaries by the UK’s foremost thinkers and writers on the subject, including Tom Holland, Helena Kennedy, Gerry Hassan, Angus Roxburgh, Adam Tomkins, Andrew Marr, Alan Taylor, Cal Flyn and many others.

 

Online, we’ve had a regular blogger on the subject, James Maxwell, since 2011, and my colleague George Eaton has been reporting every nuance of the debate for a number of years. George and NS editor Jason Cowley are in Scotland at the moment, filing observations and analysis from the ground. (Indeed, Jason has been encouraging us to pay attention to this issue for so long now that it has earned him the office nickname “Mr Scotland”.) Since we launched our election site May2015.com earlier this month, Harry Lambert has been weighing in with polling and demographic analysis – if graphs are your thing, you must have a look at what he’s been up to in the last few weeks.

Now, for the night itself. We might not have the resources of a large newspaper or broadcaster, but we’ll be on duty all night and into tomorrow, bringing you the latest results and analysis (as well as the odd hilarious video). This is the schedule for who will be at the helm, complete with our Twitter handles should you have any tips or observations, or just want to chat in the wee small hours. (Our guide to when the results are expected, and therefore how late/early you need to be awake, can be found here.)

7pm – 11pm – Helen Lewis (@helenlewis)

11pm – 3am – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

3am – 6am – Harry Lambert (@harrylambert1)

4am – 12pm – Caroline Crampton (@c_crampton)

12pm – 6pm – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

In addition, our political editor George Eaton (@georgeeaton) and our contributing writer Tim Wigmore (@timwig) will be weighing in with posts and results.

We’ll be live-tweeting every update on @The Staggers, and The Staggers blog is also where you’ll find the majority of our coverage. And of course, the main @NewStatesman Twitter feed and Facebook page will have updates too. Here we go. . .

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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.