Beyond Oil, Beyond Status Quo Britain

The much awaited (and shambolically launched) Growth Commission is a change of mood music from Euphoric Trance House to Grime. It is a bold effort which as its most basic level, as the First Minister has stated: “shows that Scotland is a wealthy nation with huge resources, encompassing our traditional strengths in innovation, hi-tech sectors … and perhaps above all our strength in human capital, with a highly educated population. It also shows that despite those enormous strengths, similar-sized nations have performed better over decades – all of them independent but most of them with fewer resources than us.” That is the starting point of everything, it is the base-facts around which the entire case for independence is made, and it is largely undebateable.

The two most important (and potentially transformative) notes within the cautious pragmatism of the Growth Commission are:

1. An admission that as North Sea oil and gas revenues dwindle, the report assumes North Sea Oil and Tax revenue at ‘Zero’. 

2. The report “explicitly acknowledges an independent Scotland can have its own currency and that this is a perfectly reasonable, credible and rational proposal.” 

These two beacons are areas around which a progressive Yes2.0 can organise. The first is a long-overdue departure from 1970s politics, an ecological awakening and an act which at a single blow removes a key argument of the No campaign (“You are basing your future economy on a wildly fluctuating volatile commodity”. “Er, no we arenaee”.) It is based on the reality of the Carbon Bubble). 

These are vital advances in a process of disentangling the failures and weakness of the 2014 case for independence and making  a serious case for the future.

In a more practical everyday political sense, the report will also present some real difficulties for the opposition in Scotland (and beyond). A point quickly realised by Nicola Sturgeon who has said: “As the Fraser of Allander Institute said, this report not only puts forward challenges to me and the Scottish Government, it also represents a challenge to other political parties. They too need to set out their vision for Scotland and how they seek to deliver economic prosperity in the years ahead”.

Much of the immediate responses from Unionist parties have been infantile. Richard Leonard’s platform and utterances seem to be in perpetual disarray, whilst Ruth Davidson’s ongoing personal brand campaign seem to have just replaced faux-khaki for Babyccino in place of any serious politics. In that context it can be argued that the new realism is going to be much more difficult for the Unionist alliance to combat.

But if there is much that is politically clever and strategically long-term useful, there is also much that is seriously ‘awkward’. These can be summarised into three issues: timelines; triangulation; and concepts of growth.


No doubt some of the nationalist fringe will be swallowing this whole and already taking aim at anyone critical of these new proposals. But it’s extremely difficult to reconcile the timeline of those advocating a referendum today or tomorrow (or preferably yesterday) and those reading this report. This report tells us that there is no referendum around  the corner this year or next. It will be interesting to see those who combine supreme deference to the SNP with the clear reality that the plan is soft and steady and ‘no time soon.’ There will either be some extremely quiet foot-soldiers as this reality dawns, or the gap between party pragmatism and grassroots impatience will widen.

Caution and Triangulation

The report will be lauded by: the Centrist Dad commentariat (a crony network which surrounds Andrew Wilson like a comfort blanket); those who blame the “left” for (well almost everything), couldn’t place themselves on a political map and will be joyous at this new “pragmatism”; and those that are operating at a level now of Yes as a Faith-Belief rather than a political project.

But there is much in the whole trajectory of the project, and in the understanding of the world that is deeply problematic.

Much of it is back to front.

As George Kerevan writes: “The Growth Report implies we need to “fix” economy, deficit etc. before we can have own Scottish currency. Actually, we need own currency to deal with an economy warped by bad Westminster management.”

Caution and triangulation and ‘mainstreaming’ used to win UK general elections, but it doesn’t any more, and this isn’t an election.


If we take a wider lens than the Anglo-British crisis of Brexit, and the internal politics of post-2014 Scotland, we see a world dominated by multiple crisis of soaring inequality, resource depletion, mass extinction, food precarity, economic instability, and climate crisis.

In what world does an ongoing fetishisation of a “growth economy” offer a solution to these problems? In the scrabble to denounce / support / analyse the Growth Commission, it’s important to step back and question the concept of growth itself.

“Degrowth (Frenchdécroissance) is a political, economic, and social movement based on ecological economicsanti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas. It is also considered an essential economic strategy responding to the limits-to-growth dilemma (see The Path to Degrowth in Overdeveloped Countries and post-growth). Degrowth thinkers and activists advocate for the downscaling of production and consumption—the contraction of economies—arguing that overconsumption lies at the root of long term environmental issues and social inequalities.”


In Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Kate Raworth reminds us that economic growth was not, at first, intended to signify wellbeing. It’s became the way we measure everything. More growth is good, most growth is best. This doesn’t work and is environmentally unbelievable. It operates at a realm of fantasy.

The aim of economic activity, she argues, should be “meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet”. Instead of economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, we need economies that “make us thrive, whether or not they grow”.

Doing this means changing our picture of what the economy is and how it works.

This is, at a profound level, a leadership failure. As the writer George Monbiot has written:

“The most they tend to offer is more economic growth: the fairy dust supposed to make all the bad stuff disappear. Never mind that it drives ecological destruction; that it has failed to relieve structural unemployment or soaring inequality; that, in some recent years, almost all the increment in incomes has been harvested by the top 1%. As values, principles and moral purpose are lost, the promise of growth is all that’s left.”

Instead of more and more from less and less as a credible option, the degrowth of doughnut economics steps away from a world where the growth fantasy is entertained and instead argues we are more than workers and costumers and exist in a real world.


A Degrowth Commission

The commitment to a Scottish investment bank is a vital part of the transformation needed that aligns Scottish independence with an ecological future. It is about creating a Just Transition and a process of creating a new economic understanding.

We need to build institutions which conserve and regenerate resources rather than squander them. Our state-owned bank could invest in projects that transform our relationship with the living world, such as affordable housing, zero-carbon public transport and community renewables. New metrics could measure genuine prosperity, rather than the speed with which we degrade our long-term prospects and consolidate wealth in the hands of a tiny minority.

Instead of economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, we need economies that “make us thrive, whether or not they grow”.

If there is much to disagree with in the Growth Commission, there is much to commend it in tone.

This is a serious document which is as far from Brexit propaganda and Trumpism as you could hope. If there are elements which come from a different political background that I think is profoundly wrong, it is written with an intent that can be engaged with. The Yes movement should develop its capability to have disagreement and acknowledge difference. We can do this as we debate what “Growth” means, who it’s for and how it can be understood. A Degrowth Commission would help that process. In the meantime we can leave the wreckage of the language of Trump-Brexit behind and try to build a politics of restoration.

Comments (52)

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  1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    The final paragraph is a succinct statement of what this document is about.

    Sadly, the final paragraph stands in stark contrast to the red-faced, cliche-ridden flatulence of many pf the other paragraphs. The tone is set with the snide cavilling parenthetical jibe ‘shambolic launch’.

    Indeed, I felt I could have easily been reading a rant by the hacks of the MSM.

    Perhaps I should extend the principle of charity and suggest that the author was seeking to get these pettifogging things out into the open at the start so that they can be ‘one-day wonders’ before the debate moves on to more nuanced debate.

    This report should be read in conjunction with other documents, such as the recent one published by the Commonweal, as well as the discourse on some of the more informed websites – such as “Bella”.

    1. Did the launch for really well?

      PS You really couldn’t of been reading a rant by the hacks of the MSM, but hey-ho…

      1. Iain McIntosh says:

        Was it a poor launch?

        It was certainly an understated launch, was the intention to get people to read the document and not present them with an immediate headline or summary to attack?

        Clearly Davidson and Leonard had not read the document before commenting. Their joint actions, joint core belief and joint contempt for democracy in Scotland is plain for all to see.

      2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        Mr Small, I did, read and listen to the rants by the unionist supporting media and by the unionist spokesperson.

        My point was about the instant judgements on a report which has a lot in it and the need to have a longer more thoughtful discourse based upon it. I am sure that over the coming months, Bella and others will provide that.

        1. Indeed we will – and happy to glance over your rudeness and ignore it – but you will not find anyone discussing degrowth in the MSM (point of fact).

          1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

            If you believe it be discourteous then I apologise. Please forgive me.

            I hope we can have a good debate about the issues raised by this report, including the concepts of growth and Degrowth, whicich is a term I had not hear before, but have an inkling of what it entails having read subsequent posts.

    2. david kelly says:

      Goodness, Alasdair, I thought it a well measured introduction to what should be an excellent debate. “Growth is good” as a mantra guarantees the survival of blue-green algae but little else. I niether know nor care what whether the “launch” went well. I don’t see diversity from the SNP mono-culture as a weakness in “the movement” but a strength. And of course we all should read Common Weal’s contribution as well.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald. says:

        David, It would appear that you and I are in broad agreement here. My concern was about the instant judgements being written in the article.

  2. Kevin Williamson says:

    “Sadly, the final paragraph stands in stark contrast to the red-faced, cliche-ridden flatulence of many pf the other paragraphs.”

    All of us who want to engage with the Indy prospectus need to engage with its critics a bit better than this.

    If we’re gonna critique each other’s pro-Indy ideas bluster dont cut the mustard.

    A starting point could be a serious debate around the whole question of the value of “Growth by any means necessary” which is the neoliberal mantra that is fucking up our lives and our planet.

    Bests, Kevin

  3. Crubag says:

    Good article – there is much still to be digested. I think the GDP point is telling, and it’s relevance was misunderstood by Remain (“Whose GDP?” indeed).

    On timeline, it doesn’t seem to have made the headlines, but the proposition is to stay outside the EU for the forseeable future. That would make the messaging around indy2 more difficult if the report was adopted as policy by the SNP. Possibly it seemed like the cleanest solution.

    There is more developed thinking on fiscal policy than ever before, which is good, but under their sterlingisation proposition I haven’t seen anything about how debt would be issued – without that there is no prospect of managing a deficit.

    And, perhaps not in the brief, but it was a missed opportunity on devolution. Countries like Denmark or Switzerland owe some of their successes to much stronger local governments (which we could do now, no permission needed from Westminster) – but the default setting in the report is for central control.

  4. Raphie De Santos says:

    Wow no oil revenue! A £13 billion deficit at 8.5% of GDP and £20 billion cuts to restore. How do you close and finance that and launch your own currency? Think we are in fantasy land. Missed the chance to nationalise oil and build your economy from those revenues the way Norway did.

    1. Crubag says:

      In a smaller economy a sudden windfall can be difficult to manage. The Norwegians created the oilfund to manage the influx, the Dutch splurged – the famous Dutch disease.

      But we’re not in either place now, so have to look forward.

  5. Iain McIntosh says:

    The dust is still settling on this document’s publication. The opposition, MSM and bbc will be pouring over every word this weekend. That the document has been accepted as both realistic and daring, suggests it has taken much of the wind out of the oppositon’s sails, but we can expect a co-ordinated attack next week.

    As Bush once said, “let’s smoke em out”, this document has the added benefit of requiring a response from unionism. What is unionism’s vision for the future? More military parades, standing at the road side waving a union jack as the world passes by and the status quo, is all I can come up with.

    What is the union for? Personally and seriously I do not know other than it extracts wealth from Scotland and by neccessity erodes the confidence of the nation that manifests in a dependency culture.

    In 2014 better together did not publish a vision, they had none. Furthermore, the key promises of EU membership and the vow have been betrayed. Today, unionism knows it is going to have to provide Scotland with a vision. They have none they can unite around and their credibility due to brexit is a shambles. Can May and Corbyn or Davidson and Leonard provide a credible vision for Scotland? No they can’t, all they have is to oppose a second referendum.

    The independence debate is likely to change from this point forward as YES is relaunched and debate is taken to the people. I say YES, as we need to make sure this is seen as people movement across Scotland and not just the SNP. We have a vision that can be critiqued, unionism has nothing and will be divided. Scots watching the debate will ask themselves. YES say this, what are tories and labour saying, with brexit at the back of their minds.

    I am greatly encouraged, the phoney war is over and a rejuvinated YES have the high ground whilst unionism is grubbing about in the brexit quagmire.

    Game on!

    1. Jamsie says:

      What a load of absolute nonsense!
      This report kills any chance on Indy2 stone dead and wee Nicola knows it.
      Nobody is going to wait 25 years to see improvement.
      People’s lives need to be lived in the present.
      And the assumption that the UK would agree to £5bn a year towards debt repayment is laughable.
      Try £25bn and then some given the forward pension liability for Scotland.
      This is pie in the sky, jam tomorrow economics with no possible certainty of it actually adding up.
      It gives her a reason to draw back as the electorate react and reject the ideas as being likely to result in third world austerity.
      Time to move on and get on with the day job.
      There is more than enough to be sorting out!

      1. Gus Ferguson says:

        What’s your vision for Scotland?

        You have none and your side have been out manoeuvred.

        Time for you to toddle off and find some friends, friends who like you (tories, dup, orange order, bnp, English defence league & ukip, etc) who believe a toxic relationship with people who look down on you is worth saving.

        1. Jamsie says:

          A vision for Scotland?
          Is that what you think this document provides?
          Oh dear!
          You really are blinded by the Indy dogma.
          This is the face saver for wee Nicola in fact it is worse than that it actually completely changes “the debate” rather than restarts it.
          “The debate” is no longer about having a referendum and achieving Indy as a result of Brexit which she obviously has realised did not wash with the electorate.
          It has changed the whole perspective offered by the SNP from one where we are a downtrodden people who are forced to live in poverty with the use of food banks rising which in reality is directly linked to her spending policies to we are a wealthy country which might do better but could not be guaranteed to under Indy.
          BUT and this is the big problem to possibly improve our position we would have to go through 25 years of austerity as I said with no guarantee of the pot of gold.
          “The debate” is lost!
          With thus document the SNP have admitted that as we stand that is as part of the United Kingdom we are wealthy not impoverished and that if we left the Union we would have to put up with third world levels of austerity.
          Does that seem like an argument to change the electorate’s perspective to you?
          As the message sinks in might it occur to you that the candour of thus report will not restart any debate but will kill it stone dead and that in all probability that was what was intended given the polls on people’s views and voting intentions?
          Wee Nicola has displayed a level of mendacity even beyond that in the fracking shambles and has effectively kicked any referendum into the long grass.
          She knew she could not win.
          But she needs to keep the hope alive that someday it might happen!
          You ask about my vision?
          Well it’s really quite simple.
          That as the report says we continue to enjoy the wealth we currently enjoy in our position in the Union and that politicians respect the democratic process.
          And that politicians properly prioritise the current needs of the whole population and address these by ditching grandstanding projects which benefit only a few.
          By the way the vat majority of no voters a hard working who have no truck with extremism despite your suggestion.
          Simple Presbyterian hard working and proud to be Scottish and British.
          You should try it, you look like you will be at least two of these for quite some time to come.

    2. Wul says:

      “We have a vision that can be critiqued, unionism has nothing…”

      Totally agree Iain. Ask any pro-dependancy mouthpiece what their vision for Scotland is and they go silent. I tend to assume it’s because their real views are unpalatable and along the lines of “I’m doing alright as it is, I don’t care about any one else, I don’t want it to stop”.

      The fact that we pay so many MSPs £60k/yr, or whatever, to sit on their arses and simply repeat; “Scotland’s shite, our government’s shite, our schools are shite…” etc. etc. is a disgrace.

      What is Ruth Davidson’s or Richard Leonard’s or even Mundell’s vision for our country? Let’s hear it and have some real debate. Maybe some good ideas would surface.

      1. Jamsie says:

        You are speaking as if there is a debate to be had, a choice to be made.
        The problem is for Indy supporters there is not.
        The position has not changed.
        People do not want another referendum and there is no prospect of one taking place.
        Even one did get the go ahead the polls consistently show it would be a resounding no!
        Wee Nicola knows she can’t risk a referendum and will not call one.
        She will continue to try to play the Tory austerity card and claim devolution is being undermined.
        If she requests one when Brexit is settled I really hope it is allowed as the defeat will end any prospect on Indy for a century maybe longer.
        And Westminster would have a mandate to remove powers from Holyrood to prevent such an event happening again.
        The SNP will be cast into the shadows of Scottish politics, the Irish Catholic and Muslim voters will take their votes elsewhere and perhaps we will get politicians in office who actually try to address issues rather than constantly denying they exist.

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          Is there something wrong with you? You have an utter obsession with the height of the First Minister. It’s quite disquieting. Did something happen in your childhood that has caused you trauma?

          1. Jamsie says:

            Wee Nicola is a political Pygmy with honesty issues.
            I think her height is the least of her deficiencies.
            And it probably doesn’t help people are reminded of wee Jimmy Krankie by her mannerisms and looks.
            Something wrong with me?
            A wee bit sore laughing at the GCR but nothing that won’t pass.
            It is the biggest statement against Indy ever made and bails her out big time.
            She knows exactly what this has done and has the mendacity to pretend that she might still call a referendum.
            Aye ok let’s have one!
            A tenner says she doesn’t call one before the next Holyrood elections and then when she loses the majority can walk away saying the electorate don’t want one.
            What state will our public services be in by that time?
            How much taxpayers money will have been wasted grandstanding while people’s lives are blighted by her policies when they could be so much improved just by spending here where it is needed?
            There are many on the Indy side starting to see through the rhetoric knowing they have been led up the garden path.

  6. Abulhaq says:

    Does this report advance the cause of independence or hasten its arrival?
    The implication that a post independence will struggle for decades and living standards may well drop suggests not.
    We know from polling before the independence referendum that Scots were less inclined to vote yes if it hurt their pockets. On that basis alone the substance of this document ought to have been for internal not general consumption.
    The great weakness of modern Scottish nationalism is that it is almost 100% economics driven There appears, except on the romantic fringes, no other ‘platform’.
    Effectively, it sinks or swims depending on how much dosh the punters imagine they can squeeze out of it.
    Scottish nationalism is a utilitarian concept. The SNP has made it so.

    1. Gus Ferguson says:

      In an ideal world Scots could assert their national identity with pride and not face criticism.

      We don’t live in an ideal world, we live in the uk where exerting a non conformist identity is portrayed as racism.

      To be Scottish and want freedom, you must hate the English! We all know this to be ccomplete cobblers, but we all know the power of the press in misrepresenting independence.

      Media is not a retained power for no reason!

    2. Alf Baird says:

      Sad but true, Abulhaq. The Yes/No decision on what is after all a fundamental question of national identity choice is not an economic question but is ultimately determined by an individuals dominant culture/heritage, in which language aspects plays a key role; those who feel more British will largely tend to vote No, whilst those of us who identify more as Scottish will tend to vote Yes. We might have been better with a Cultural Commission than an Economic Commission. I am convinced that teaching the Scots language in Scotland’s schools (as well as English) would transform the cultural gap facing many people in Scotland, and also remove the confidence sapping Cringe. Language is to a large degree culture, and culture determines the way a people vote on national/ constitutional matters. Brexit also proved this argument.

      In any event 98% of Scotland’s population won’t even read Wilson’s tome anyway. If they did they might see that it ignores the absolute key dynamic engine of economic growth in all of the world’s great trading economies from Singapore, to Dubai, to Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg, Tangiers, Malta, Suez, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Panama and so on – is their major seaports and logistics capabilities without which trade simply cannot flow. Scotland’s derelict and outdated Victorian ports on the Forth and Clyde are hardly up to the task of facilitating a doubling of Scotland’s moribund international trade yet the report makes little reference to the fact international trade is dependent on having very advanced seaports and frequent competitive shipping connections, which Scotland does not enjoy. As someone once said – ‘Increased trade and economic growth won’t happen in Scotland until we sort out our ports’:

  7. Willie says:

    Does it really matter if the report launch was good or bad.

    Does it matter if the content is sound or unsound. The truth is that the MSM and the media will disparage and relentlessly attack the document.

    But that is not to be negative. Where a lot of work requires to be done, in addition to this good work, is to get into the minds of the age skewed section of our population who, in my mind, ignorantly and erroneously out of selfish self interest, voted against independence.

    But yes, a great start, or should I say, re-start, and can I just comment that the pejorative comment at the start of this piece about Euphoric Trance House adds little to an otherwise very good piece.

    We all have work to do.!

  8. SleepingDog says:

    If you view human civilization as a planetary superorganism, then growth for growth’s sake is simply tumourous. Similarly, growth as a dangerous substitute for lack of political purpose, or as a driver of distractive over-consumption pumps toxins into our global systems. Measuring economic health by positive growth is like measuring personal health by weight.

    Raworth’s Doughnut Economics is worth reading for her debunking of the ideological poisoning of economics as much as for her corrective towards focusing on what should be the real concerns of economics, and how it should work with (and learn from) other disciplines. She looks at how natural systems are regenerative (all those essential cycles in nature), and these lessons must be applied to human activity (or there won’t be human activity on a planetary scale very much longer).

    A degrowth commission sounds like a switch to pragmatic, rational, future-focused optimism. Will all our modern learning and the potential of younger generations, what is stopping us from creating a society of thriving humans which contributes to the health of the planet?

  9. Dougie Blackwood says:

    Any move to independence will take time to manage. There is no way that Scotland is ready to run all of our own affairs now without making some real effort to set up the infrastructure to manage all the levers that are necessary. I thought the report went through much of these difficulties in a fairly thorough and effective way.

    The big argument is always going to be about currency and to become truly independent we will need our own currency. The report recognises that we cannot just say “from tomorrow we will use a Scottish pound”. We need a process and management tools that we do not presently have. So far as we are able, we need to get on with setting these things up but as a transition it is sensible to use the same route as the Irish; Sterlingisation followed by a Scottish pound at par then let it free. The report indicates the steps along that road in what I thing is a sensible step by step way. The last thing we want is crash and burn economics that the more hasty of our followers think is practical and the MSM will be telling us about every day from now to Indyref2.

    This report is not, and does not pretend to be, a blueprint to be exactly followed. It provides a good route map indicating things to be done, things to be looked at and pitfalls to be avoided. In my view it has been a very worthwhile exercise. Unionists and MSM will try to pick holes in it and would decry anything we produce no matter what is written in it.

    I believe that with some effort we can get our footsoldiers prepared for the work of talking to the unconvinced and producing a clear majority for independence using the guts of this report as a basis to work on.

    1. Willie says:

      Dougie, the MSN will relentlessly pick holes in anything that the independence movement says. The quality of the argument is of no importance to the MSM and their state funded cousin the BBC.

      As Alf Baird alludes to in an earlier comment, people vote based upon their perceived cultural identity. Voting for a large part is therefore a hearts and mind decision based not on strict economic analysis.

      That however is not to understate that sound economic thinking, and evidence of that, is important, because it is. But hearts and minds together with the wider public perception of things is more so.

      Destroy a culture, destroy the language and you destroy the people. BBC English and the ubiquitous classroom pink coloured world map was no accident, and whilst there may be a partial reflowering, the hands that delivered the mandatory pink map are still at work today.

      It is a multi headed task of which economic perception is just one part.

  10. Joe gibson says:

    All this palaver about what currency we should use, is utter tosh in my opinion, we have all the financial stability right in front of us, the answer should be the mighty U S dollar, they in the northsea Meaning oil companies are dealing in dollars, they don’t pay the UK treasury in pounds the pay them in dollars.

    Why OH why do we not take their dollars, it does not tie the other countries to the USA,
    there are a hell of a lot of countries in this world who do and thrive on it. Lets leave the pound to die on the vine after all Westminster does not give a dam about us, so why should we give a dam about them.

    Y E S

    Joe Gibson

    1. john young says:

      Joe the dollar is on a decidedly shaky peg and could well nose dive soon,the USA are presently trillions in debt once the Chinese/Russians/Iranians get the “Silk Road” project underway it will be curtains for the dollar and not before time.

      1. Jamsie says:

        Not in the next 25 or even 100 years.
        The dollar will be king because the Russians and the Chinese do not want to be rich in their own currencies.
        They want to be dollar rich!
        Then pound rich!
        Then euro rich!
        World order!

  11. Mark Bevis says:

    For those that don’t study Degrowth, the simple truth is that if we as a species don’t take the necessary steps to move our economies {if we are to have economies at all} into sustainable circular ones, then Mother Nature will do the necessary. Looking at recent climate science data, I would say that Mother Nature has started already.

    If we leave it to Mother Nature, Degrowth will occur brutally, with a random efficiency that a neo-liberal would be proud of. Till his nuclear bunker disappears under the waves.
    Degrowth will happen, one way or the other. We either do it in a controlled fashion or let nature do it for us. If you don’t believe the science or mathametical projections, simply look to history, where empires have collapsed in previous times.

    And it’s not because of climate change, it’s because of simple maths. Climate change, soil degredation, wealth inequality, societal collapse, are all symptoms of the problem, not the other way round. It’s simple maths, you cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet, despite what many economists and politicians would have you believe.

    Looking here from England, in some ways Independence for Scotland is irrelevant, if we as a geographic nation and us as a people of many nations don’t get our shit together quickly. Independence has value, in that you may need independence from the Westminster neo-liberal oligarchy to acheive a degrowth policy. But that can be said of all the other regions of the UK outside the M25 circle of fantasy economics.
    I’m all for Scottish independence, for the simple reason that you have the right to have a go yourselves. seeing as the current methodologies imposed from Westminster have failed so many of your people. By the same logic I’d want to see independence for the north of England too.

    Circular self-sustaining economies require local solutions to local problems, and local, democratic control of resources. If an Independence campaign gives Scotland that, then I’m all for it. But then, shouldn’t say Glasgow be independent of Edinburgh, Aberdeen independent of Arbroath? Or whatever.

    If all Scottish independence does is give Scotland a slightly different rate of growth or another version of capitalism, then Scots are extinct as the English, and I suggest not bothering to waste your substantial energies on it.

    Devise an effective degrowth strategy, and independence will fall in place by default. Because a self-sustaining circular economy couldn’t work any other way.

    As someone on the Dark Mountain Project said somewhere, we don’t need a new way to do old things, we need new things to do.

    1. Jamie MacDonald says:

      Nails it for me.. very well said.

  12. Wul says:

    I remember during Indyref 1 that many of us on the YES side were willing to go along with the “business as usual”, softly, softly approach. The “Don’t scare the horses” kind of stuff.

    There is a real fear of proposing genuine, sustainable approaches to organising society. Any proposal that suggests de-growth or climbing down the mountain from peak consumerism risks being ridiculed and attacked extremely vociferously by all who benefit from the status quo.

    We are, at the present time, very dependant on continual growth and consumption and any change from that path would bring some economic pain. No politician (Greens excepted) wants to mention the elephant in the room that continual growth equals eventual extinction. It is not viewed as a vote winner.
    However, the non-cash rewards of a different way of living could be very pleasant indeed. Better mental health, lower crime, more equality, less fear, no wars, confidence in old age care, happier children, less suicide, public luxury with private sufficiency, more free time.

    Might it be possible to gain support for independence based on a vision of better quality of life for your grandchildren rather than your bank balance?

    1. Andrew V says:

      It’s not the case the continuous growth means eventual extinction. We’ve seen a de-coupling of growth from resource usage as we move from primary/secondary industries to an economy dominated by services. This is why, to take on indicator, the UK is using less energy than it used despite have a bigger economy.

      Increased time in education, improved healthcare and more recycling are three examples of traditional GDP growth that are very positive.

      Of course that’s not to deny that we have some pretty major challenges in making our economy sustainable. But things are so much better than when I first joined Friends of the Earth more than 20 years ago.

  13. e.j. churchill says:

    Hi Mike.

    This approach is doomed, ab initio. These couple of bullet points should be fairly self-proving to most, regardless of their religious beliefs (those would be ‘cult’ or ‘fear’):

    – the ‘left’ (statists by definition) don’t ‘do’ pragmatism.

    – although it is masked, minimised and glossed, people ain’t stoopid and will catch on: there’s no shining city on a hill for 25 or so years, meanwhile we live a horrid, impoverished economy and similarly shitty life. A generation spent in Burkina Faso is, at least, warm.

    I see NO turning coat b/c of this as near-nonexistent. OTOH, It is pretty sure to shrink YES several points, at least.

    Separation/destruction was never a very ‘salable’ idea, and it just got harder.


  14. e.j. churchill says:


    ¿ The UK has more than a few immigrant-thick areas. Has the SG never advertised/recruited in them?

    If Scotland needs more working-age, fecund (immigrant) population. in the famous words of W.E.B. Dubois, “Throw down your bucket.”


    1. Alf Baird says:

      Scotland likewise “has more than a few immigrant-thick areas”, however according to the census the largest ethnic immigrant group to Scotland is not people coming from outside the UK, it is actually people from rest-UK, primarily England. The census indicates this has been the case for the past century and more, and with particularly large movement amongst the professional classes. Since devolution this movement of people has accelerated, with some one million people coming to live in Scotland from rest-UK over the past twenty years alone. From a dominant cultural/heritage perspective this actually helps explain why two million ‘Scots’ voted against independence. The most popular resident locations of immigrants from rest-UK also well reflect ‘unionist’ held constituencies – e.g. Aberdeenshire, Perthshire, Borders, Orkney/Shetland, Edinburgh, etc and hence explain far lower levels of Yes votes in these areas. Which takes us back to one’s dominant cultural/heritage as being by a long way the primary motivation for voting No or Yes on what is really a question or choice as to one’s preferred national identity, and which for those coming from rest-UK and subsequent generations should seem rather plausible and indeed helps explain why as many as two million residents here in Scotland voted to block our independence and self-determination.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        Of course, I was referring to Class B & C skilled and semi-skilled workers moving to Scotland to earn a living – not mobile young professionals & empty-nesters making a preferential choice of lifestyle & location.

        My question was: the B&C don’t naturally drift North of the wall, much, but there are a LOT of them in pockets in England. Has nobody thought of recruiting & enticing masses of east Europeans, Poles, misc Euro-trash, South Asians …

        I’ve known of a few Scottish *companies recruiting at Job Fairs, FE technical programs … but never Regions, Cities or Unions.

        again, curious

  15. Lochside says:

    Alf Baird..hits it on the head again. If you reduce Scotland’s aspirations down to currency and monetary policy only, then you devalue our identity and struggle further. The SNP have relentlessly ignored the cultural and historical opportunities to open up our true potential, both social and political, to our young.
    The RUK influx has diluted our identity with its BRITNAT allegiances. This is all about who you are: Scottish or British, no half way ScotBrit nonsense.. I doubt that the majority expat population of Scots or the ‘Ulster’ Scottish cohort are lovers of our challenge for the basic human right of self determination. So blood and soil’ is not the issue here. The resident EU population, which voted narrowly ‘NO’ last time would almost certainly vote overwhelmingly ‘YES’ this time.

    National consciousness of our struggle against perfidious Albion must always be at the forefront. Compromising with it has been proved time and again to be a fool’s charter. Rees Mogg and his fellow Etonian patrician class have and will continue to lie and steal our resources and drive our young and enterprising into exile, as their forefathers did before, ably abetted by the traitors and quislings that our land has been cursed with.
    We should remember the 2014 aim of governing as if we are already independent: as Alf says invest in our ports and airports; accelerate the institution of our own central bank and currency; no debt repayment to the profligate UK ‘s unmanageable debt mountain; nationalisation of the oil resource; and repatriation of trident asap. Inspire the working people of this country, instead of facile bribes of £41oo…have the SNP learned nothing?

  16. Andrew V says:

    I’ve finished reading and the digesting the report. It took a while!

    I would very much agree about the currency point. One of the big reasons Scotland presently has such a big deficit is because we don’t have our own currency. If we had a Scottish pound it would have dropped as the oil price fell allowing other exports to pick up some of the slack.

    I’d be very cautious indeed about undertaking fiscal adjustment without having the extra flexibility our own currency gives us.

    So I’d suggest that the introduction of the Scottish pound is brought forward. But overall that is a pretty minor criticism.

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Andrew, good eye.

      The boulder-in-the-road preventing a realising any hope of a Scottish currency is basic, universal chicken-and-egg macroeconomics.

      – a currency requires substantial reserves.
      – unless/until the (existential) debt & deficit are within ‘norms’ (as defined by Central Bankers), any loose change has to reduce debt, not build reserves.
      – ‘loose change’ will not come from the commission’s rosy ‘growth scenario that *can support preferential spending AND debt reduction.’ errr, no.

      The discipline to make a currency viable in 10yrs is probably far beyond Scotland’s will and ability.

      Like it – or not – the ‘laws’ of Macroeconomics are as immutable as the ‘Law’ of Gravity.

      ’tis sad


      1. Andrew V says:

        It depends what you mean by “substantial”. I don’t think huge reserves are required unless you’re planning some sort peg which I think would be a disaster.

        A fairly typical number for currency reserves is 5% of GDP for countries that aren’t aiming for a peg. Back of the envelope is that Scotland would want about £8 billion of reserves. Although if you were happy to be nearer the bottom of the table you could probably get away with more like £4 billion.

        Reserves can be funded debt, credit swaps and even an element of seniorage. Remember borrowing 5% of GDP to invest in currency reserves doesn’t impact your balance sheet because the borrowed money is matched by an asset and indeed if the Scottish pounds drops you will make a profit!

        Under all scenarios I think Scotland will need to put tax up. The advantage of independence is that we can boost immigration and cut defence spending (personally I’d cut that much more than suggested in the report) which would be a big help.

        1. John S Warren says:

          Andrew V,

          I agree with your point about currency (and actually that should apply whether or not you wish independence). My problem with the Growth Report is primarily with the currency issue. The simplest and shortest way I can express the problem is (not for the first time) to repeat the hoary old maxim of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), founder of the House of Rothschild; often misquoted but I hope a good paraphrase at least, here: “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws”. I quote it because it rather trenchantly makes the point.

        2. e.j. churchill says:

          Andrew, without getting into the weeds, much, for reasons both good & bad, the Thistle & STLG will have a connection that may be less than a peg, but more than an exchange rate.

          Call it ‘backed’ or some other euphemism, but it will take several years to circulate £ out of the Scottish system, ergo, BOE is involved.

          The world’s Central Bankers want a country’s ‘currency reserves’ to be (substantially-to-overwhelmingly) G-8 bonds & forex (called T1 in the trade) and (not intuitively obvious) the greater ratio of T1 to other reserves (you mentioned some) ‘proofs’ the currency against raids.

          In 2009, Iceland lost £45bn in a week: they saw it coming, but there was nothing they could do about it. The banking system failure is the public reason, but the reason-behind-the-reason was they could not defend their currency, therefore all Iceland institutions and markets were defenseless. There is an embedded-if-distasteful lesson for Scotland there.

          Considering both size and exposure, I’s say the Thistle needs £15bn reserves, and one/third of that needs to be T1.

          Aren’t you glad we’re not in the weeds?

          1. Andrew V says:

            I’m not sure on what basis you think Scotland would need a multiple more currency reserves than other countries?

            I also think linking a Scottish pound to GBP would defeat the point of a Scottish currency. Let’s look at when the price of oil fell: that was bad news for Scotland (as a producer) but good news for England (as a consumer).

            So Scotland should have got the boost from a falling currency but ended up getting a tightening from a rising currency as England benefited.

            The Iceland situation has nothing to do with currency. That was a banking crisis that was beyond the ability of the state to fund. It’s a difference issue but my view on that is that I’d like to see Scotland in the European Banking Union giving the financial backstop of the entire EU rather than relying on a small player like the Bank of England.

      2. John S Warren says:

        Mr Churchill, I must hand it to you; that must be almost the worst summary of economics I have ever read – and that is saying something. The choicest morsel was this: “the ‘laws’ of Macroeconomics are as immutable as the ‘Law’ of Gravity”. I know economists have always wished their discipline had the stature of physics; but this is hilarious.

        I think we can now award EJ Churchill the poetry award as the “McGonagall of economic theory”.

        I am only here to ask (wiping the tears from my eyes), just who is your proposed Newtonian Titan of economics who discovered these Laws of Economic Nature? I really am curious.

        That is all. For any readers still here, and still ploughing through this turgid rubbish (and not losing the will to live as the debate is dragged down below Gorky’s Lower Depths), if you want to understand economic theory, for what it is worth, I recommend your time would be better spent reading Hyman Minsky, Randall Wray or Steve Keen; or even some of the Quarterly Bulletins of the Bank of England, that can be quite revealing about monetary theory.

        For myself, I do not intend to debate this tripe: I am only here for the laughs.

        1. e.j. churchill says:

          John, you’re both a literalist and a naif.

          Whatever Central Banker think is ‘the Law’ IS ‘the LAW.’ All of them are ‘NeoClassic Economists,’ and many of them went to MIT and learned neocassic economics, and EVERYBODY’s Central Bank follows the University of Chicago/MIT model.

          The Eco 301 Macroeconomics text is totally beside the point. MIT PhDs make economic ‘law.’


          ’tis sad.


          1. John S Warren says:

            I thought so; all of the “usual suspects” I can surmise from the hints (but still no names, I see). As I thought, you are just playing on the word “law”; a ‘literal naif’ – thank you for giving me the clue to the nature of your understanding: not science then, but it couldn’t be: but very entertaining, in a frivolous kind of way.

            Thank you for the ‘trivial pursuits’, the light relief on a hot day, and goodnight.

          2. John S Warren says:

            Mr Churchill,

            Let me go a little further. In response to Andrew V’s telling rebuttal of your approach you resorted to obfuscation; a peg that isn’t a peg. It is typical of your ‘method’; the argument that doesn’t actually mean what it plainly states; then it is just fudged. You did the same thing later; the authority of Macroeconomics, that suddenly, wasn’t authoritative (I shall return to that). Under the ‘puff’, the over-egged arguments, the spoof authority, what you presented against Andrew V was a weak argument to try and make the ‘doable’ look ‘undoable’. Andrew V had the better of it.

            I do not know how authoritative you think what you key-in is, but what comes out looks more like the hum-drum playbook of a journeyman trader: more Prankster than Bankster. The big boys upstairs, the Chicago/MIT NeoClassical economists (Neoliberal – I assure you, there is nothing classical – or classy – about Neoliberal economics), and the Central Bankers deliver the “Laws” (the rule-book for journeymen). These “laws” you first represented as science, then maybe as statute law; but it turned out they are really just Commandments (this is dogma, so more like a religion, for believers).

            So it turns out that this is all really just Political Economy after all. Doctrine is delivered by the priesthood (Central bankers and Chicago/MIT Neoliberal economists), just because they can do it. But we all knew that. They deliver policy whether soundly judged or reckless endangerment; and they can crash the system, and get away with it. We knew that. They have been doing it forever, even before Neoliberal economics. In 1914 The Bank of England produced £350m 3.5% War Loan; unprecedented, and an eye-watering percentage of GDP; all to fight the war. It was an official triumph, that demonstrated that Capital in Britain flocked to support the war. Only it didn’t: 3.5% War Loan was a catastrophic failure. Much of it was unsubscribed. The whole disaster was covered up. Nobody knew; in the BofE books the shortfall was ‘covered’ in the name of the Chief Cashier (he must have had a large mortgage on his semi in London)! The war and it’s funding went on as if nothing had happened. It has only been revealed in a BofE Blog, a few months ago. There is a lot more research required to explore that event (somehow I suspect it may not be fully explainable by Neoliberal theory; they have never been good at double-entry bookkeeping). All this shows is that irresponsible blundering isn’t unique to Neoliberal economics; the difference is, that like the Bourbons, the Neoliberals learn nothing and forget nothing.

            I do not think you realise in just how much intellectual trouble Neoliberal economics is currently in. It is finally being found-out (unfortunately it cost a Crash to illustrate the void). Even the economics students have had enough. It is unprecedented. In 2017 a group of young graduates published a successful book, protesting at what economics students are actually taught: ‘The Econocracy’. The reason is that even a social science requires some science; and science requires engagement with reality. Neoliberal economics does not engage with reality (there are only theoreticians). One reason is, Neoliberal economics is 99.8% Microeconomics. That is why you were in such a muddle about Macroeconomics; they do it badly.

  17. Assard Nu Kai says:

    I’m an outsider looking in. As long as Scotland is part of the UK Union it deserves to be treated with contempt. It has been treated with contempt and will continue to be treated with contempt – not just by the UK hierarchy but by outsiders like the EU, Russia, me, and almost everyone.

    We may pity the battered wife but if she insists on staying with the brute then our pity soon turns to scorn.

    I’m not sure that independence under the circumstances can be negotiated. I think it needs to be demanded and taken. This is where the scorn comes in. There’s no indication that the Scottish people are prepared to make demands or take the action required to free itself.

    Interesting to see The Left in Scotland being pandered to so suddenly. This was predictable. The lesson here is that The Left should never be trusted because they are always in it for themselves and their own aggrandisement.

    The fight for independence should be above petty politics. It’s much more important than that. Further to that, there’s clearly no point in engaging in petty political point scoring along ideological grounds until you have control of your own affairs. Anyone who breaks that rule should be put against a metaphorical wall and metaphorically shot.

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