Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Our obesity crisis won't be solved by 'fitspiration' (Guardian)

Of course it's better to be fit than too thin, but any fixating on an unattainable body image doesn't help self-loathing women, writes Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett.

2. If anyone can find a viable plan for newspapers, Jeff Bezos can (Independent)

Anyone who loves and values newspapers should rejoice at this turn of events, argues Matthew Norman.

3. Stay-at-home mothers need our support (Telegraph)

George Osborne's patronising pronouncement will come as news to full-time mothers across the country, says Rowan Pelling.

4. The hideous hypocrisy of the charity fat cats (Daily Mail)

For the chiefs of some of the best-known charities, who insist they must take your money to tackle global poverty, stand accused of hypocrisy over their own pay, writes Ian Birrell.

5. Zero-hours contracts: in Cameron's Britain, the dockers' line-up is back (Guardian)

Driven by privatisation and corporate muscle, zero-hours casualisation is disastrous for workers, jobs and real recovery, says Seumas Milne.

6. Why Labour should fear Dave’s Wizard of Oz (Times) (£)

Lynton Crosby, Cameron’s election guru, has a simple and effective talent — telling politicians when to shut up, writes Anne McElvoy.

7. The global economy is now distinctly Victorian (FT) (£)

The Old Normal is looming large on our horizons, bringing with it unfettered markets, writes Adam Posen.

8. Why we’re all banking on the new Governor of the Bank of England (Telegraph)

Mark Carney’s message will play a crucial role in fanning the flames of economic recovery, says Andrew Haldenby.

9. Gibraltar: This Rock stands in the way of our national interest (Independent)

There is a case for summoning up our old colonial instincts to resolve this dispute, writes Mary Dejevsky.

10. Even now, we still don’t understand the riots (Times) (£)

Was this moral breakdown on a local scale or a national one? Is Britain broken? We need to know – but we don’t, says Daniel Finkelstein.

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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.