Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. At the G8 a problem shared is a problem shelved (Times)

Adam Boulton looks ahead to the G8 without much hope for change.

2. A swing of the handbag reveals Mrs May's ambition (Telegraph)

David Cameron is relaxed about his colleagues wanting the top job. Just as well, says Matthew D'Ancona, as the Home Secretary has made it clear she believes she could lead the Tories.

3. The limits of Chinese parochialism (South China Morning Post)

Philip Bowring urges Beijing to see itself as more than an Asian power and to play a positive role in world affairs, while stressing that in light of Edward Snowden's presence, Hong Kong must get over its fixation with mainland China and the West.

4. Let's capitalise on the social enterprise boom (Independent)

Nick Hurd stresses importance of businesses and organisations that use profit to help to find better social solutions.

5. Bring on a British revolution - it's long overdue (Observer)

We've never managed more than a few riots – we need something more radical, says Kevin McKenna

6. Bad Idea, Mr President (IHT)

Syria is like Iraq, only worse, writes Ramzy Mardini, and arming the rebels will pour fuel on the fire.

7. Natural justice faces a savage loss of innocence (Observer)

Plans to reduce legal aid are an unwarranted assault on the very nature of our legal system, writes Nick Cohen.

8. Fight back youngsters, Gran is mugging you (Times)

After paying the pensions and health bills of older Britons, today’s generation can’t even afford their own homes.

9. Homer Simpson isn't a positive role model for kids? Eat my shorts... (Observer)

The report criticising TV comedies for their negative depictions of fathers is at once joyless and opportunistic, says David Mitchell.

10. Money calls the shots in state schools (Telegraph)

The Government refuses to increase selection on academic ability, writes Jenny McCartney, so we select instead on the basis of wealth, which is apparently more acceptable.

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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.