Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Why I believe America and the world still need Barack Obama (Observer)

The president's fight for regeneration and equality goes on. He must have four more years, writes Jesse Jackson.

2. David Cameron fears a chill wind blowing across the Atlantic (Sunday Telegraph)

The Tories’ strategy for winning in 2015 is founded on the power of incumbency – but the US election may prove that this is no longer a strong card to hold, says Matthew d'Ancona.

3. The joyous power of bawling out the boss (Independent on Sunday)

Bureaucrats may try to control our working lives, but as Danny Baker dramatically showed, employees can find ways of striking back, Andrew Gimson writes.

4. This latest Tory rebellion was not just cynical, it was completely bogus (Observer)

The result of the unholy alliance between Tory Europhobes and Labour will be to increase the cost of the EU, argues Andrew Rawnsley.

 
Europe may be the big issue but Trident and energy are also testing the partnership, says Iain Martin.
 
 
There are good reasons why fellow members of the EU should regard us with deep suspicion, argues Dominic Lawson.
 
 
Greek democracy is in peril and much of the fault lies with the EU's hard stance, says Nick Cohen.
 
 
The debate on wind farms is a huge and bad-tempered argument between two people saying, in effect, precisely the same thing, argues Rod Liddle.
 
9. Meet Westminster's answer to James Bond (Independent on Sunday)
 
The SNP will ask the Scottish electorate to vote for a greased pig in a dark poke, writes John Rentoul.
 
 
The SNP needs to do more to answer detail so they can earn a right to a debate on principle. But so do the conservatives who wish to stand still, argues Andrew Wilson.
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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.