Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

Why I, as a journalist and ex-editor, believe it is time to regulate the press (Observer

Will Hutton gives his support to the forthcoming Leveson report.

 

Despite the sabre-rattling, an attack on Iran is now unlikely (Independent on Sunday

 

Patrick Cockburn explains why it's now too late for Israel to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.

 

Gaza grabs the headlines as Congo once more descends into chaos (Observer

 

Ian Birrell calls for the world to pay more attention to the rebel takeover of Goma.

 

The first law of social work: politics trumps parental love (Sunday Times) (£) 

 

Minette Marin comments on the recent case of social workers removing a child from foster parents who were members of UKIP.

 

Unlike Europe, the Tories can bind together (Sunday Telegraph

 

Janet Daley excoriates the European governing class.

 

I see one last, if faint, hope for a truly free British press (Sunday Telegraph

 

Matthew D'Ancona argues that Cameron should offer the press "one last chance".

 

Why Dave doesn't give a hoot about the EU budget (Independent on Sunday

 

John Rentoul argues that Cameron is right to pursue a "wait-and-see" policy on Europe.

 

David Cameron's boldness over Europe does him credit (Sunday Telegraph

 

Iain Martin praises Cameron's tough stance during the EU budget negotiations.

 

Houdini Dave can slip the Leveson trap (Sunday Times) (£) 

 

Martin Ivens calls for a voluntary regulatory arrangement among newspapers.

 

Buck up Britain - regrets are mere whinges (Sunday Times) (£) 

 

India Knight says she has no time in life for regrets.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

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.