Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Why the world faces climate chaos (Financial Times)

We will watch the rise in greenhouse gases until it is too late to do anything about it, writes Martin Wolf.

2. Will Ed Miliband be the Doctor Who of politics? (Daily Telegraph)

Labour must decide its policy on welfare soon or be forced to dance to the Chancellor’s tune, says Mary Riddell.

3. A Tory-led Europe exit would unleash a carnival of reaction (Guardian)

The nationalist right has long set the agenda, writes Seumas Milne. Labour should back a referendum and make the progressive case.

4. Which part of your manifesto is for real? (Times)

Politicians will be pressed to say which of their promises are non-negotiable in the event of another coalition, writes Daniel Finkelstein.

5. Cameron and his party conspire to create a European shambles (Daily Telegraph)

The Prime Minister’s concessions over the EU referendum have eroded his authority, says Iain Martin.

6. Data geeks are going to change the way we live (Times)

Clever information will cut crime, reduce surgery costs and create billions of new wealth, says Stephan Shakespeare.

7. The UK could reshape the EU if it would only try (Financial Times)

Political leaders must show they want and expect to stay in the EU, writes Charles Grant.

8. This rebellion is Cameron's Maastricht. He should have seen it coming (Guardian)

Every Tory leader should expect a revolt over Europe, writes Melissa Kite. But this time the rebels' anger goes much deeper.

9. Afghan exit - or is it a very long goodbye? (Daily Mail)

The US appetite for interference on a global scale continues to unsettle the world, writes Andrew Alexander.

10. The awful prevalence of grooming gangs (Independent)

Such crimes would be distressing enough in isolation, says an Independent editorial. What is worse is that the authorities could have done something about them so much earlier.

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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.