THERE is much talk of Covid Recovery in Scotland. We even have the newly appointed Covid Recovery Minister John Swinney who has left the heat of education before he can be burned by the long awaited OECD Report.

Mr Swinney has latterly styled himself as Ms Sturgeon’s ally and protector but I suspect he now faces a dichotomy. Will he push the nationalists’ interests or will his previous financial head return and will he give sound advice on the reality that Scottish businesses face? The business sector has been ravaged by the political management of Covid. Sectors such as Leisure and Tourism are on their knees and desperate for some reassurance that normality can return, whilst Brexit bumps have not been helped by the Nationalists’ desire to return control to the EU.

But in Scotland there is also a hidden danger to jobs and prosperity and that is the conversation about IndyRef2.

During the last Scottish Independence Referendum, the SNP wanted us to believe that there would be no impact to businesses and jobs, trade would continue uninterrupted they told us.

But we were not convinced. Cartoonists sketched pictures of a triumphant Alex Salmond waving the Saltire whilst a queue of lorries labelled with familiar names headed south and many business owners spoke in hushed tones about what the risk might be and if they should start making contingency plans.

This time the conversations are not so hushed and the economy not so buoyant. Businesses’ have had to dig deep to weather the Covid pandemic and are just adjusting to life outside the EU.

The last thing they need now is the uncertainty and disruption of another referendum. For many years interest rates have been low and inflation virtually non-existent.

This has enabled companies to invest and grow but uncertainty is now creeping in.

The less optimistic are anticipating inflation rising and with that the inevitable increase in interest rates. Those of us that remember the massive interest hikes in the Eighties rightly express serious concern at the impact a repeat of this scenario would have when so many people have mortgages and borrowings that far exceed the level of debt in the Eighties.

The idea that into that uncertainty you could add the break-up of the UK is unthinkable for those entrepreneurs and business owners who do not get their income from the Government purse.

Scotland’s businesses would face devaluation of their assets as the country tried to set up its own currency or used sterling without being part of a monetary union.

Borrowing would be at best difficult, at worst impossible, without huge interest rates.

A hard border would appear with our largest market, with over 60 percent of our current trade going to the rest of the UK, and we would be excluded from all existing trade deals with the rest of the world as we sat waiting to gain membership of the EU.

If another independence referendum is called the very real questions are; how many businesses will choose to invest in Scotland; how many will start moving their operations elsewhere; how many will make contingency plans to do so in the event of a vote in favour of leaving the Union.

For business’ the decision to leave Scotland is not a matter of the heart, it is a matter of the head, it is about survival and growth. The sad news that McVities are on the brink of closing their operations in Glasgow was met with a comment from an SNP MP that he wouldn’t allow them to leave.

How naive was this statement? It doesn’t matter how politically powerful you might be, business must trade and operate profitably to survive.

If a Government does not provide a taxation and market framework in which they can exist then they will simply close their doors and move to somewhere that does.

And sometimes they simply decide that their business model is changing and there is no longer the need for a particular plant in a particular country and that is business.

In all the rhetoric that comes out of Holyrood the often-deafening silence in support of the wealth creating sector, has left many businesses owners feeling devalued in Scotland.

The seeming inability of the nationalists to understand and recognise the very real risks of their emotionally driven cause of separation has made many question whether remaining and investing in Scotland is the right direction of travel.

How long will it take and how much damage will be done before the realisation sets in that without a vibrant wealth creating sector, the public sector, on which Scotland has made itself so dependent, will collapse.

Sometimes it is not the event itself that causes destruction, but the actions taken in anticipation.

This time round there is the possibility that people wont wait and businesses will act because they are tired of the uncertainty regardless of the outcome.

Our elected members are there to represent the best interests of Scotland and its people lets hope that this ‘diverse’ Parliament can see beyond the ends of their noses.

PEOPLE in Scotland are considerably worse off after 14 years of SNP rule because the SNP is so intent on convincing people of the need for Independence that they have failed to focus on policies that would have made the lives of Scottish people better.

Far from improving the lives of Scots, the SNP reigns over the worst drug death rate in Europe, declining education standards and questions over the disappearance or misuse of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Nicola Sturgeon says she “took her eye off the ball”. That isn’t an excuse, and it isn’t good enough. There should be no greater focus than on improving the lives of the people you represent. It is completely unacceptable that in this day and age we have escalating and out of control levels of poverty and deprivation in Scotland.

In Nicola Sturgeon’s Scotland honest, hardworking people are struggling to get by and many are even having to resort to using food banks to feed their families.

Anyone who saw the long line of people who had to queue, in the snow, during a pandemic, for a food bank in Glasgow will be unlikely to forget the scene.

It is time to act. We must stop accepting the need for food banks; we must stop accepting that older people die in winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes.

We’ve experienced decades of policies that promote the rich getting richer, with the suggestion that perhaps wealth at the top will magically filter down and benefit the rest of society.

The reality of our experience reveals the reverse is true. Rather the rich salt their gains away in offshore tax havens and benefit no-one but themselves. We must reverse those policies and give people at the bottom of the wealth pyramid far greater disposable income.

Through mechanisms, such as Universal Basic Income, and changes to income tax and corporation tax, we can create greater disposable income among a far greater number of people; people who will then spend more on leisure activities, going out, doing up their houses, shopping and many other activities that will help to stimulate the economy and in turn help to circulate wealth more fairly around society.

If Nicola Sturgeon has concentrated on eradicating poverty, we would have seen hugely positive impacts throughout our society.

People would have been able to spend more money on healthier food and sporting activities, which would help to fight our epidemic of obesity and the conditions associated with it.

It might even have had an impact on Scotland’s Covid-related death figures, which are shocking. It might also have started to reverse the decline in life expectancy that Scotland has seen in recent years.

The SNP’s record on education is appalling. Another ball they took their eyes off. If we are to compete on a global stage, we need to ensure we have a well-educated population ready to take advantage of the opportunities that are coming our way thanks to changing technologies.

Standards of educational attainment have been declining and we must end that now before we have completely failed a generation in Scotland.

It is clear that Nicola Sturgeon has ‘taken her eye off the ball’ on the issues that are under the control of the devolved administration and would make a tangible difference to the people of Scotland.

In fact, it seems increasingly clear that the one ‘ball’ she has ‘had her eye’ on is Independence.

Perhaps if Nicola Sturgeon really wanted to convince Scottish voters that they’d be better off in an Independent Scotland under her leadership, she should have taken the opportunity the Scottish voters have given her to show how much better she could have made life for people in Scotland.

 

IN under two weeks voters will go to the polls. Nicola Sturgeon is trying to convince people that what is really on the ballot sheet is the decision on whether Scotland should face another referendum.

Her logic is simple, if you vote for the SNP and they win a majority then they have a mandate because the people of Scotland will have spoken. Interestingly, the First Minister doesn’t talk about it being a mandate to lead a successful and powerful devolved Parliament. But perhaps that is not too surprising given her personal track record. If voters were just looking at suitability to run a devolved Government the SNP’s popularity would almost certainly take a hit.

After all, you do not normally ride home with a majority if you are steeped in controversy. If you have wasted millions of pounds on failed projects. If you have presided over declining education standards and missed health waiting targets. If you have doubled the drug deaths rather than halving them.

Normally after 14 years of messing up you would face the wrath of the voters at the ballot box. But silver-tongued Nicola Sturgeon understands her audience.

She knows that they do not care about her failures because they are willing to believe that they are simply beyond her control, consequences of the supposed evil regime south of the border.

As long, as she continues to offer the dream, she may yet salvage success at the polls from that legacy of failure.

But the real question is whether the crown she wins is one that will bring adoration or her ultimate martyrdom.

She has played her role with adept finesse to date, offering just enough hope to her acolytes to keep them on side but never quite taking them over the line.

It is the ultimate yellow brick road, and the Wizard of Oz is frantically trying to keep the show on the road.

But Scotland’s Wizard of Oz cannot in reality deliver her promises.

Her sweeping claims about separation lack any substance.

Since the age of 16 she has lived and breathed the dream of separation and yet she is still unable to answer even the most basic questions on how a standalone Scotland would work.

After 34 years of thinking about it, 14 years of which she has been in power with unfettered access to the resources of the Scottish Government, Ms Sturgeon has not come up with any answers she is willing to share.

The best she can offer is that she will commission a working group.

Presumably because they didn’t like the answers the last group gave them, A Growth Commission that talked of years of austerity clearly wasn’t going to sell the dream.

So, after 34 years, one has to wonder if she isn’t just a little bit worried that it is not quite as simple as she wants us all to believe.

But maybe Ms Sturgeon does not need to worry.

After all a leader needs a team and on Wednesday her number one candidate in the South of Scotland Emma Harper gave an interview to a reporter in which she explained that a hard border between Scotland and England was a positive prospect because it would create jobs.

So, apparently, we can stop worrying about that challenge!

The same Emma Harper also explained in a previous interview that currency will not be a problem because we can all use plastic.

I guess when your mantra lacks substance you need disciples that are not embarrassed by their own lack of knowledge.

Sadly, Ms Sturgeons deception has not only fooled her own disciples the opposition at Holyrood has been sucked in and given oxygen to the illusion.

Despite referenda not being a devolved power, they too are campaigning on the idea that the election is about a referendum mandate.

So, as they all dance along the yellow brick road in the hope of returning to Holyrood the voters are asked to decide who has courage, who has a heart and which one has a brain.

‘Scotland has fallen victim to the nationalist playbook, divide and conquer. Our traditional left-right politics of arguing how best to improve opportunity and make good the lives of those who struggle has been replaced by a tawdry battle of Yes and No.’

Eyes on the prize. Sadly such is the state of our politics at present that the prize is not addressing our shattered economy or putting our education system back on its feet. It is simply preventing an outright nationalist Government in the next Scottish Parliament. Scotland has fallen victim to the nationalist playbook, divide and conquer. Our traditional left-right politics of arguing how best to improve opportunity and make good the lives of those who struggle has been replaced by a tawdry battle of Yes and No.

The Scotland we are fighting over was ironically created by the Union, pulled together from the clans that had fought each other at the Battle of Shirts and later at Culloden along with competing lowland interests.

Our Scotland which thrived under the Union and punched way above our weight in the global successes and politics of the centuries.

We speak of the Union dividend as not one simply of money but of culture, of family, of shared interest.

The nationalists recognise none of this, they snarl with anger and contempt at the idea of pooled resource. They send angry missives about stolen oil as they drive down the roads and cross the bridges that it built.

They pronounce themselves kinder, more respectful and more civic as they renounce Scots Tories as scum, brand Labour as Red Tories and demand the English leave Scotland – and nowhere are those voices of bitter contempt louder than in the First Minister’s city of Glasgow, where the SNP has delivered austerity and deprivation.

It is their model for a future Scotland.

Eyes on the prize, for the nationalists the prize is the destruction of the Union and thus far they have played that game well. They have changed the devolution settlement from a Scottish Parliament running the country’s once proud public services into an outpost of opposition to the rest of Britain, neglecting our education and welfare while taking ownership of our flag and turning us against ourselves.

They have rewritten history to pit England against Scotland and used Holyrood to deepen division with false claims of assaults on our rights and freedoms by the United Kingdom.

So sophisticated has their campaign of destruction been that truth and lies are now interwoven not only in politics but in our Civil Service and Judiciary.

Such is their success that they hold 59 out of 73 constituency seats in a total of 129 and have used this power base to manipulate their minority support into a sense of overwhelming control.

Eyes on the prize, for unionists there is a sense of growing frustration and anger. Politics is a numbers game and our side has fallen victim to the tactics of division.

We are the majority acting like a minority because we are still divided by our traditional left-right politics. Labour would rather vote with the SNP then support the Conservatives.

Whilst Anas Sarwar talks of healing, he rejects any meaningful options to work with the other parties.

Douglas Ross offers the hand of friendship with the confidence of knowing it will be rejected.

Neither man wants to face asking their candidates to stand aside, and no candidate is willingly offering.

Meanwhile, Willie Rennie urges his supporters to stick with them knowing they will not come anywhere near winning most of the seats but instead ensuring a unionist party doesn’t.

They all urge ‘use both votes for us’ whilst the nationalists titter with glee at the easy pickings. Alex Salmond has joined the fray. But this is merely a distraction because whilst everyone haggles over the list and argues about the vote split the prize is being forgotten.

Eyes on the prize, 73 first past the post constituency seats, 59 of which currently give the nationalists their power base; it’s the reason they control the parliament even as a minority Government. If the unionist parties place all their hopes on mere survival through the 56 list seats, they are playing to lose.

To beat nationalism the major pro-union parties need to take the constituency seats and their focus and worry about the list is simply a taste of their strategic defeat.

It will take more than this election to achieve but they should be making that start now. None of them alone can take on the rise of nationalism, they need each other. Instead egos and self interest have become the order of the day.

So the voters must decide. If their eyes are on the prize, then unionists will look at which unionist party can win their local constituency and vote for them without reservation. You can then vote for whom ever you want on the list vote and maybe, just maybe Holyrood will become what was intended, a coalition of parties whose eyes are on the prize. The prize of a Scotland with local decision making in the interests of the people, with the benefit of the union dividend.

THE SNP’S hopes of Scottish independence have been dealt a major blow after an expert warned Scots may not be able to afford their monthly mortgage payments should the country be successful in splitting from the UK.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to press ahead with a second referendum on Scottish independence should the ruling SNP win a majority in the upcoming Scottish election on May 6. But the SNP’s push for a break from the rest of the UK has come under furious attack, with experts warning Scotland could be plunged into a financial black hole in light of the huge budget deficit the country was running – even before the coronavirus pandemic. Now John Ferry, a contributing editor for the pro-Union think tank Three Islands, has warned Scottish people could struggle to pay their monthly mortgage on the properties if the SNP is successful in its quest for independence.

SCOTS could face large tax hikes if Scotland becomes independent, a research paper has warned.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance said an independent Scotland would have the highest deficit in Europe if it were to quit the UK. This would force the Scottish Government to raise taxes and cut public spending, the research paper warned.

The paper claimed an independent Scotland would need to raise the basic rate of income tax to 46 pence in the pound to pay for its current level of spending.

Policy officials said the current rate of Scottish spending is £11,247, which is 20 percent higher than England, and could not be supported without huge tax rises, or a significant reduction in public spending.

The lobby group predicted the Scottish Parliament would need to increase taxes by at least 10 per cent of GDP to balance the books and raise VAT to 49 per cent.

© Scotland Matters