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The SNP wouldn't be a partner in a coalition of chaos – the DUP is

Apparently there's nothing worse than working with a centre-left managerial party that only wants constitutional change through the ballot. 

It was less an image, than an omen for Ed Miliband's fortunes in the 2015 election campaign. A picture of a tiny, gormless Labour leader in the pocket of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister.

The Conservative campaign ad was a rip-off of the 1980s Spitting Image TV sketch, in which the Liberal leader David Steel was depicted in the pocket of Social Democratic Party founder David Owen. Steel's wife later complained the sketch killed off his political career

In the 2017 election campaign, Tory after Tory warned of a "coalition of chaos" if Jeremy Corbyn was to win enough seats for Labour to work together with the Scottish National Party, the Lib Dems and the smaller parties.

Theresa May's dogs of war – the Daily Mail and the Express – used the phrase in headline after headline. The main target was the SNP. Apparently there was nothing worse than the concept of Labour working with a centre-left party that believes in (among other things) "a prosperous country where everyone gets the chance fo fulfil their potential" and "a fair society where no one is left behind".

The Tories also took every opportunity to paint Corbyn as the friend of terrorists. Look! He met people from Sinn Fein! May painted him as a man who did not understand "there can never be an excuse for terrorism". 

Then came 8 June 2017. The Tories are in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party in order to form a government. Voters are googling the Democratic Unionist Party. They are discovering this is a party that makes the Tories look positively hipster.

This is party that opposes abortion rights and equal marriage. Among their number are climate change deniers, former members of the terrorist group Ulster Resistance, and politicians with links to the far right. One DUP politician was caught apparently agreeing with a member of the public who said,"Get the ethnics out".

And then there's sectarianism. Not just in Northern Ireland, where the DUP's allies are lobbying for more marches, but in Scotland as well.

If one thing was clear from the Scottish election result, it's that voters want stability, not more referendums. But as I've written before, the fringes of the pro-union debate are worryingly orange.

The proposition of Tories in hoc to a bunch of extreme unionists is a very different proposition from Ruth Davidson's pitch for a tweedy constitutional status quo.

There are plenty of reasons why Labour should not form a coalition with the SNP – like the fact it's more fun to win seats off them, and voters don't really like coalitions in the first place. But the idea of a centre-left party teaming up with another centre-left (albeit managerial) party that will only countenance independence through democratic means, and whose fanatical supporters' idea of taking up arms involves ceremonial daggers, is far less disturbing than the current alliance desperately put together by Theresa May.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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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.