A New Magical Thinking

Remember when we were told that independence shouldn’t have any ‘Trojan Horses’? The case against radical independence was always that it would alienate people, and the argument put forward by the Unconsciously Right of the nationalist movement is that of pure sovereignty. No political case should be made for independence before independence itself: “We’ll discuss all that later” – has been the mantra repeated ad nauseam. It’s become a meme of last resort for the Brigado Rosso of the Gammon variety. That’s all changed now.

Now putting very specific political economic arguments forward is good and unifying and necessary and shouldn’t be challenged.

Funny that.

As Nick Durie writes in Left Ungagged (‘Too Poor for Prosperity?’):

“During the independence referendum of 2014 many critics of the prospectus put before them by the Scottish Government was that in their view it was overly optimistic, that its claims were insufficiently supported by hard data, and that in places it was guilty of boosterism or magical thinking. The Growth Commission was created in response to these criticisms. It was tasked with showing how and independent Scotland could grow its economy and create the fairer society the YES campaign had argued for in a hard numbers driven analysis. Andrew Wilson, an ex-RBS economist was chosen to head the commission.

It took a number of years to publish its report and the commission took evidence from a range of contributors. There is much working in the report, which is lengthy and serious, but which nevertheless diverges very far from the 2014 vision of independence to such an extent that it too is guilty of magical thinking.”

“The report commits to Sterlingisation. Politically this is not possible. It may be economically worth considering, but voters will be incredulous that this is the plan. Moreover buried on page 92 of the report are a series of monetarist principles which effectively advocate a straitjacket on public spending which, apart from being simply wrongheaded, will prove intensely electorally unpopular”.

Others are not as kind.

Richard Murphy writes (‘The Scottish Growth Commission gets its economics very badly wrong’):

“I remained vaguely optimistic until I reached page 47. Then I knew the SNP has a disaster on its hands and that if it was to become independent on the basis of this report the last thing that the people of Scotland would enjoy would be growth.”

He continues:

“…this Commission recommends that Scotland use the currency created by another country. That will mean five things.

The first is that Scotland will have no control over its money supply after independence.
Second it will have no control over its interest rate.
Third, if London decides to trash the rUK economy to support The City, or some other cause, Scotland will go down with it.
Fourth, all the negative impacts of Brexit will be imported directly into the Scottish economy.
Fifth, Scotland will effectively have to earn the currency of another state to service its debts.”

Put simply, as Iain Macwhirter writes: “The SNP’s Growth Commission won’t make independence respectable by adopting a discredited fiscal conservatism.”

As he points out: ” The Commission assumes there will be “frictionless borders with the EU and the rest of the UK”, yet this is the one thing we know cannot happen. There will have to be a border somewhere if Scotland is in the EU and England is out of it.”

The report is full of such magical thinking.

The Sunday Herald – in a fit of optimistic reverse engineering – explains that we would have won the 2014 referendum if we had put forward the Andrew Wilson version. I find this difficult to believe.

In the face of biting austerity, growing inequality and a collapsing British state in crisis, the idea that you would put forward public spending cuts as your vision of the new dawn of a new country and received unprecedented public support is …just fantastical.

On the opposite side of the page is images of Ireland’s women celebrating breaking free from decades of conservative orthodoxy that limited freedom and controlled people. The Yes vote in Ireland is a gendered revolution but it is also a generational one.

What we need in Scotland is the same, not a retreat into the failed orthodoxy of conservative economic models as corporate lobbyists push their dogma and it lands softly on the safety mat of crony journalism, but a real break from the past.

The news that the Republic of Ireland has voted to to support a woman’s right to choose is a rupture. Scottish independence will be the same. Pretending it will somehow not be, and protecting the powers and vested interests currently embedded in the British model is politically inept.

The Growth Commission may have done the independence movement a service though. The idea that pre-independence can be some kind of blank space – some kind of void in which political debate can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to take place, is now completely indefensible.



Comments (87)

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  1. Graeme Purves says:

    Spot on Mike!

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    Employ an economist to write a report and you’ll get an economist’s answer.
    The fact that most economists these days are schooled in neo-liberalism, and where things like pollution, soil degredation, deforestation and wealth inequalities are classed as mere “externalities”, is it any wonder this is the report Scotland got?

    The independence movements need to write their own report, with social, economic and environmental inclusion for all Scots (and the English refugees that’ll be coming) at it’s forefront.

    For one example, did the commission’s report even mention UBI?

    For anyone who studies the maths of the planet, to even have a “Growth” commission is in itself a contradiction. Unless you mean growth in terms of social justice, equality, energy independence, well-being, self-sufficiency and recycling.

    1. Graham P King says:

      Brilliant answer!

  3. Jack Kent says:

    The report’s recommendation that an independent Scotland should continue to use sterling is dispiriting – Richard Murphy sums it up well. If there can be anything positive to come out of this, it is that many commentators have eloquently put the argument against the report’s proposal and in favour of Scotland having its own currency. Currency was a weakness in the pro-independence argument first time around and I’ve always assumed it was an issue fudged because proposing a new currency at that time was thought to have been a step too far for the electorate, an unknown that would be exploited by the unionist side of the argument. Back then, I was not aware of many making the modern monetary theory economic case for an independent currency and it is heartening that such ideas seem to have made considerable headway since 2014. I can only hope that the Scottish Government does not go into the next independence campaign on the back of this dreary plan to, in effect, hand monetary policy to Westminster and condemn the country to more years of austerity. It is inconceivable that the country would vote for independence on such terms.

  4. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

    As an SNP member, and committed supporter of independence for decades before that, I was looking forward to the Growth Commission’s report. My heart sank as soon as I heard we would be keeping Sterling for at least ten years. As the saying goes, “what the actual f*ck”!!! After all the hints we would be going for a Scottish currency from the get-go, this “frying pan in the face” is dis-heartening to say the least. I can only hope the SNP hierarchy reject that particular recommendation pretty darn quickly. It is a gift to unionists who already have the deck stacked in their favour.

    1. e.j. churchill says:


      “After all the hints we would be going for a Scottish currency from the get-go, this “frying pan in the face” is dis-heartening to say the least. I can only hope the SNP hierarchy reject that particular recommendation pretty darn quickly.”

      facts-on-the-ground … do you want the potential & possibility of having a real nation, or do you want a bankrupt red-headed stepchild ‘semi-autonomous’ province and colony of those nations who are less-stupid?

      ’tis sad,


      1. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

        Many experts in the field of finance would disagree with your apocalyptic analysis.

      2. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

        Whose “facts on the ground” are these churchy? Yours??? Worthier financial “experts” than you disagree.

        1. e.j. churchill says:

          In reference to my post equating an immediate currency with bankrupcy, aka ‘Peter Pan’ (MBP) say:

          “Many experts in the field of finance would disagree with your apocalyptic analysis.”
          “Whose “facts on the ground” are these churchy? Yours??? Worthier financial “experts” than you disagree.”

          Feel free to name a single ‘expert’ (or even apprentice) who suggests a reserveless, fiat ‘Thistle’ would be successful.

          just one ‘expert’ is fine …

          ’tis sad


          1. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            “Reserveless”? Who said anything about “reserveless”? You’re just making stuff up now. That’s a shame [sighs wistfully].

          2. e.j. churchill says:

            OK MBP, I’ll bite: where is the money going to appear to: reduce the debt by ½ in 5-7yrs AND build reserves to make a Central Bank to float a currency in 10?

          3. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            The debt will be reduced by economic growth which itself will be enabled by investment NOT austerity (see the performance of all our small, independent neighbours in contrast to the UK’s extended period of austerity).

            As to bank reserves; this is from


            It states;

            “In total, $40.23 billion can be feasibly raised to support an independent Scottish currency, broken down in the following ways:
            •$16.2 billion may be secured through a reasonable division of the UK’s foreign exchange reserves under a debt and asset negotiation.
            •£4.462 billion worth of hard Sterling currency is in circulation within Scotland. If half of this is converted into the new Scottish currency and the Sterling held by the Scottish Central Bank, $2.9 billion may be raised for the foreign reserve. An equivalence between the new Scottish Currency and Sterling over the transition period will ensure prices initially stay the same.
            •$13 billion would be raised via a foreign exchange swap with the Bank of England to aid the mutual stability of both the economies of Scotland and the rest of the UK.
            •€8 billion Euros ($8.8 billion) will be raised via the issue of a Euro bond. Funds raised will be partially converted into other reserve currencies such as Yen and Renmimbi.”

            Also, one has to wonder how Slovakia went from independence on 31/12/92 to a brand new currency (the Koruna – Crown) on 8/2/92.

            As to the “one expert” you requested, why don’t you check out the guy mentioned in the article. Richard Murphy is one of the most lauded financial experts on the planet. But, I suppose, we could just ignore all this expert advice and “facts on the ground” evidence (Slovakia for one) and just go along with what you have to say.

            ’tis sad.

          4. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            Slovakia got its new currency on 8/2/93 …. not 92. Sorry for the typo.

  5. Graham P King says:

    I suggest that the Independence offer (election manifesto?) should include (as a minimum) firm commitments to and detailed costed plans for the following:

    1. A Scottish National Bank, in public ownership

    2. Scotland’s own new currency, independent entirely from (not pegged to) the rUK pound sterling nor Euro (and no undertaking to join eurozone).

    3. Universal Basic Income, to be implemented nationally for all Scottish residents.

    4. Land Value Tax, to replace Council Tax.

  6. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Unambitious tripe, anyone? Thankfully, the launch of this document was awful too.

  7. Interpolar says:

    So, if we were to rewrite the Report on the assumption of a Scottish currency from the get-go, what would the overall economic scenario be?

    1. Jamsie says:

      Too late the cat is out of the bag!
      The “debate” is now about 25 years of austerity against status quo – “ we are a wealthy country.”
      Do people really want to be poorer in the “hope” that in 25 years time they will be able to say that they are as well off as other countries?
      Why would they?

      1. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

        Of course, the other side of that particular coin is that we must remain poorer than our small, independent neighbours in perpetuity under the Union.

        So the debate is about whether we stay relatively poor forever under the Union or aspire to better with independence.

        1. e.j. churchill says:


          That is contrafactual and absolutely unsupportable in a 10base number system.

          I don’t care what your politics & opinions are, but, jeeze, don’t make shit up as you insult fact & logic.

          ’tis sad,


          1. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            Another troll who has decided insulting rants can satisfactorily replace debate. Tis’ very, very sad.

            Try explaining why you disagree with me rather than just stringing meaningless insults together churchy.

        2. Jamsie says:

          You must be confused.
          The GCR says we are wealthy under the Union.
          Where does the UK sit in world terms of economic strength?
          I might not have another 25 years, none of us might!
          Jam tomorrow is not good enough.
          People are entitled to expect that their lives today have priority over grandstanding.
          The GCR shows the SNP don’t care about that.
          Worse they try to play the “our children and grandchildren card” which is totally disingenuous and of course mendacious.
          The UK already gives enough in foreign aid.
          Why does this administration need to top it up?
          Would the money not be better spent at home?
          God knows home needs it and probably deserves it more!

          1. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            The GCR notes Scotland is a wealthy country but that we do not benefit from that wealth. It is utilised by the UK state for its own priorities that are not necessarily in Scotland’s best interests. Hence, despite its innate wealth, Scotland’s economy (a reserved responsibility) underperforms both the UK (though really just the SE) and all our small, independent neighbours and Tories (even the supposedly Scottish ones) refer to us as subsidy junkies.

            Scotland could do so much better than that. But not under the Union. Only independence will allow ALL governmental decisions to be made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland’s representatives, with Scotland’s interests paramount.

            It won’t take 25 years. After the crash of 2008, countries found themselves in much, much worse positions than a newly independent Scotland would find itself in but turned it around in just a few short years with nary a nod to austerity. It’s the UK govt’s blinkered obsession with austerity that has prevented the country from recovering to the extent all our small, independent neighbours have.

            In short, few if any in Scotland will be made poorer by the fact of independence. Being shackled to an austerity bound Brexit Britain has, and will continue to make many, many thousands poor and placed at the mercy of a vindictive UK govt we did not vote for.

  8. e.j. churchill says:

    How do you propose to pay for all those expensive goodies, Mark? The economists have an answer. You may not like it, but they DO provide a pathway from A to B.


  9. Bruce Stuart says:

    There are lots of areas in the report I don’t like. However once everyone gets over the knee jerk ‘I dinae like that’ bit, it will serve it’s purpose, as a document to to be used to discuss the ‘what we want & if we want what we have to do to get there.’ As far as I’m aware (not being a member) the SNP commissioned the report. What they do with it is up to the SNP. They can accept it or they can pick bits or they can reject it. But it will have done its job by getting us to think a lot more deeply on the how we get there than perhaps we have done in the past.

    1. Jim Anderson says:

      Absolutely agree Bruce. The document is meant to foster debate and clearly states it is not prescriptive in showing a way forward. Happy to see and hear everyone’s comments and listen to the learned & knowledgeable ones debate the issues before I make up my mind. I would suggest everyone else does the same before committing the dreaded foot in mouth disease.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        Bruce, Jim

        In order to meet the 25yr horizon and birth of a modern, capable and confident nation, a certain number and sequence of macro strictures and waypoints HAVE to be met.

        Macroeconomics is the master & driver of Scotland’s future and any number of ‘seemingly optional’ spending choices … aren’t optional, at all. (Unless, of course, you wish to extend the horizon to 35yrs? 50?)

        – the Fracking Ban? gone. fracking is a cash cow.
        – universal benefits? gone. they’re ‘opportunity cost,’ and the money is better used on potholes (or deficit-reduction.)
        – music tuition? p1 swimming lessons? subsidising various business losers? Prestwick? Tidal/Wave Energy PLC. subsidies?

        Several bits of the ‘Old Scotland’ will be disappeared.

        ’tis sad


    2. Moira Cochrane says:

      I agree that the Report is a starting point. A breadth of possibilities for all to discuss.

  10. Wul says:

    Is this report perhaps meant to convince the “powers that be” that an iScotland would be a nice, wee, cowed & well behaved place to do “business as usual”?

  11. Doug Daniel says:

    “Now putting very specific political economic arguments forward is good and unifying and necessary and shouldn’t be challenged.

    Funny that.”

    This works both ways. We’re often told one of the main strengths of the Yes movement is its diversity. That doesn’t really square with the reaction from many on the left of the movement to this report – far too many of whom had made their mind up about this report the second Andrew Wilson was announced as its chair two years ago and instantly declared it was just going to be a neoliberal fudge to appease bankers (which was reinforced a few weeks ago when those same people got it into their heads that the report was going to consist of nothing more than “let’s be a carbon copy of New Zealand”, which – predictably – is not the case.)

    This report was never going to deliver a set of recommendations that would have had the Greens, SSP, CommonSpace, RIC and so on nodding their heads in agreement. And it would have been a missed opportunity if it had, quite frankly.

    I know there’s this idea amongst many in the movement that we can win the next referendum without trying to appeal to the “middle Scots” who erred on the side of caution last time. This strategy is doomed to fail. We won’t win without converting people in Aberdeenshire, the Lothians, Perthshire, Stirling, Ayrshire and the Borders. This document is aimed at those kind of people. And it had to be, because the rest of the movement certainly has no interest in speaking to them, preferring instead to write them off as selfish Tory types who only care about their bank accounts, since trying to appeal to such folk would be “Blairite” or whatever.

    The No voters I know who genuinely could have been persuaded to vote Yes ended up voting No because they didn’t trust us. They felt we just said whatever we thought they wanted to hear. They felt we made things up on the spot. They felt we minimised the risks of becoming an independent country (which too many of us true believers simply refuse to acknowledge exist). They felt we made inconsistent arguments and stated things as “facts” when they were nothing of the sort (“of COURSE we’ll be in the EU on Day One”, “of COURSE rUK will agree to a currency union when we vote Yes” etc).

    This report will speak to such people. It doesn’t have all the answers (in particular, there needs to be a subtle but important change in emphasis on the currency proposal from “we’ll use Sterling as long as we can” to “we’ll use Sterling only as long as we need to”, and I’m not yet convinced about this annual solidarity payment idea), but it will open the door to such folk so that they start to give us a fair hearing.

    Other visions of an independent Scotland are available – and that’s exactly how it should be.

    1. Doug you have quite a sweeping geographic/demographic there “in without converting people in Aberdeenshire, the Lothians, Perthshire, Stirling, Ayrshire and the Borders”. I’d have thought those areas have a very different set of views between and within them. I live in Leith, and the folk in Leith, Granton and Pilton have very different views than those in other parts of Edinburgh, never mind “the Lothians”.

      I’m amazed by your idea that “this report was never going to deliver a set of recommendations that would have had the Greens, SSP, CommonSpace, RIC and so on nodding their heads”. You seem to think that the intention is to persuade the handful of people in these groups? The issue is whether you can persuade the vast majority of Scottish people that you can make the case whilst explicitly carving out public service cuts.

      One thing is good though – the people who want to make an ideologically right wing case for indy are now out in the open, and have to deal with political debate rather than hide behind notions of sovereignty and ‘talk about that later’.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        “One thing is good though – the people who want to make an ideologically right wing case for indy are now out in the open, and have to deal with political debate rather than hide behind notions of sovereignty and ‘talk about that later’.”

        Mike, ‘s’ok to recognise and even quote George Bush, ‘Let’s smoke’em out.’

        Many sections of the report will make for uncomfortable digestion for several inhabitants of the yessir ‘big tent.’



      2. Doug Daniel says:

        “explicitly carving out public service cuts”? Not sure which report you’ve read, Mike. The one I’ve read recommends real terms public spending rises above the rate of inflation and certainly above the current levels of UK expenditure – hardly a call for a public spending boom perhaps, but it’s explicitly not a recommendation to cut public spending (and even all that kind of stuff is caveated as worst-case scenarios, presumably to avoid accusations of fantasy economics or whatever). In fact, if we’re talking about things it says explicitly:

        “Scotland should explicitly reject the austerity model pursued by the UK in recent years.”

        Still, will that persuade the vast majority of Scottish people to back independence? Not on its own, no. But it’ll help neutralise the assumptions of folk who didn’t trust us last time because they thought we just plucked numbers out of thin air, and allow us to speak to them about better things. Other people will be persuaded by different arguments.

  12. Redgauntlet says:

    I seriously can’t believe what I’m reading….

    …another report drafted by a banker? The guys who brought you the biggest economic meltdown in almost a century, and to boot, a guy who worked for a bank which we know tried to destroy countless small Scottish businesses…

    What is the point of commissioning such a report? It’s a total waste of time and money.

    The independence question is and only can be a question of sovereignty. If the Scots can’t be convinced – sorry, if the SNP are incapable of convincing the Scottish people – of the advantages of being independent on the grounds alone of sovereignty, then there was never any point in independence in the first place…

    Also a report which posits itself on “friction less borders with the EU”, again, total fantasy.

    Andrew Wilson’s report should be on the Wasterstone’s shelf of “Newly Published Fiction”…

    A total waste of time and money, and further proof yet that the SNP have too many vested interest in the current status quo to deliver independence…

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Red, voting purist/zealot alone, I doubt you’d get 3/10 votes.

      The more mundane, practical among the yessirs, want to see a fairly orderly, clearly-marked & signposted path they can jump on (for they want to eat and pay their mortgages, while the zealots are willing to live in a hole & eat seaweed.)

      I doubt this new ‘pathway’ will garner many NO, nor Lean-NO voters. In all of Scotland, there may be nine undecided voters … maybe, and who cares what they eventually decide.

      The CLEAR tenor: ‘things will be a lot worse, for a long, long time before they will get better’ is going to limit YES enthusiasm.

      Still, it paints a fair and realistic pic of separation. No fear, no scare, just reality.

      ’tis sad


      1. Redgauntlet says:

        Worse for who? And in what way worse exactly?

        We could be poorer and more equal and happier… according to books like The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone…

        ..or we could be richer and more selfish and paranoid, less imaginative, more materialistic, crueler rather than kinder.

        To take economics as the only meaningful factor is already a rank ideological surrender…

        But even such a way of thinking, anybody who trusts the opinion of a banker needs his head examined…

        Ten years of austerity…it’s just unbelievable… ha ha ha… what a joke…

        Nobody can predict ten years down the line, least of all a fckn banker…

        The SNP ARE A JOKE…

      2. Redgauntlet says:


        Your post is typical, full of assertions disguised as fact…

        People want this, you say, people want that…

        ..we don’t know what people want…people themselves don’t know what they want most of the time. So how are you going to know what they want?

        What people want changes, it’s fluid it’s not written in stone, and it’s manipulated by the media of course, and this report by a discredited, second rate banker, a money junky, which is what the 1% are – MONEY JUNKIES – is just another distortion and further manipulation presented as fact, presented as truth…

        The duty of a Scottish independence party is to lay down very clearly to people that Scotland faces an existential choice. Either it chooses to recuperate the national sovereignty ceded in 1707 or it will have ceased to exist as a distinctive country in 50 to 100 years…

        Anything else is just bollocks and a distraction…

        The Tories couldn’t have written a better case against independence…

  13. J Thomson says:

    This report is a good starting point and it has got everyone discussing independence again. Which is a very clever move in my opinion.

    Within the report there are areas I agree with and there are areas I do not. However as Nicola Sturgeon said these are only recommendations and not SNP party policy.

    National Assemblies are to be held over the summer to discuss the report and this would be an excellent opportunity to air our views on refining/changing areas of the report we do not agree with. I am sure there will be many very lively debates at the assemblies.

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      J Thomson:

      How can a report drafted by a neo-liberal banker be a good starting point for a discussion about an independent Scotland?

      Most respected economists these days have declared neo-liberal austerity a total failure… it’s already an out of date doctrine…. among economists…

      The SNP administration are trying to frame the independence debate in a neo-liberal context.

      Is this the imaginary, visionary, inclusive Scotland so many of us were inspired by the idea of?
      We need a new template, not a rehash of a bunch of failed voodoo economic policies…

      A debt ratio of 60% of GDP can only be described as extremely right-wing…

      It’s a clear and vile attempt to set the parameters of the debate in a neo-liberal framework… an ultra right wing context… an underhand tactic by the SNP govt.

      If you think people on the Scottish Left are going to want into get a debate with such an extreme right wing starting point, I think you’re wrong. I don’t even consider the report to be worth reading…

      It’s the same old failed economic policies after 10 years of austerity, only presented in a shortbread tin..

      1. Jamie Smith says:

        Is a 60% debt-to-GDP ratio right wing? I’m not an economist (nor a neo-liberal) but comparing with some other smallish developed countries (below; figures are for 2016), could 60% not be seen as reasonable?

        Denmark: 37.7%
        Sweden: 42.2%
        Norway: 35.3%
        New Zealand: 38.4%
        Iceland: 52.8%

  14. Crubag says:

    Having had more time to digest it, I think as it goes it’s quite clever. If it has a major weakness, it is that it’s written by consultants, so more about backcasting than anything. “Here is how others have done it.”

    Doug Daniel’s point about not being a carbon copy of New Zealand is a bit close to the bone if it really is the case that part of the text comes from a New Zealand government report. If that is the case, it’s probably a reference being lost in the transition from writers to official authors.

    I think what it might lack is vision – which is not readily supplied by consultants, and really is the province of politicians. Singapore, for instance, might be looked to as a model now, but it’s success is surely because it’s ruling party took a unique set of circumstances and found a way to make them work – rather than looking round the world for a similar city-state to emulate.

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      I think it is pretty clear it was written with an end-point in mind.

      Other, similar countries have done it – WE CAN TOO! – see? See? SEE?

      ‘Similar’ is a keyword and can be flexi-deffed, and was.

      ‘Wealth’ and ‘Natural Resources’ likewise, can be made into pretzels to support about any point.

      Scotland, because of location and lack or neighbours (save the wealthy, supportive one they irrationally hate) pose some pretty unique, serious disadvantages other countries have not faced. (note: NZ embraced OZ as a peninsula, and used that benefice as a springboard. Scotlands’s hatred, throws a negative consideration into most possible things.)

      ’tis sad


    2. Doug Daniel says:

      “I think what it might lack is vision – which is not readily supplied by consultants, and really is the province of politicians. Singapore, for instance, might be looked to as a model now, but it’s success is surely because it’s ruling party took a unique set of circumstances and found a way to make them work – rather than looking round the world for a similar city-state to emulate.”

      But that is precisely what the report is not doing. It looks at 12 successful countries for lessons that can be taken from how each has made their particular circumstances work for them, and highlights three in particular – but it absolutely does not say “let’s just emulate one of these countries”. The overall message is that Scotland must make the decisions that are right for Scotland.

      I really do wonder how many critics have bothered to even read the 55 page summary, never mind the whole 354 page report. It’s difficult not to get the feeling most have just read the negative articles in the alternative media, and decided that’s good enough – which is quite ironic given that’s exactly the kind of behaviour folk criticise in consumers of the mainstream media.

      1. Crubag says:

        Backcasting is looking at the present and working backwards. The report has plenty of this, and there is a range of commissions, reviews and projects proposed based on the experience of others.

        That’s fine, and quite welcome, though more process does not automatically equal progress. Ideas need to be implemented to have an impact.

        But this Commission can’t be said to have had a synergistic or catalytic moment. Rather it is a set of management options (or “toolkit” as consultants would say). EU membership is a case in point. My reading of the report is that the authors are non-comittal, and some of their proposed options would rule out nembership for the foreseeable future. But they are not definitive, one way or the other.

        Maybe it does require politicians, or poets, to create and communicate that vision that sets a clear direction that others can get behind.

        1. Doug Daniel says:

          “EU membership is a case in point. My reading of the report is that the authors are non-comittal, and some of their proposed options would rule out nembership for the foreseeable future. But they are not definitive, one way or the other.”

          But that’s kind of the point, it’s trying to give recommendations that aren’t tied too specifically to one set of circumstances. It’s very possible (perhaps even likely) that Scotland won’t be in the EU on Day One of independence. So why tie recommendations to a situation that might render them obsolete in a stroke? The extremely negative tones it uses to talk of the UK’s future after Brexit make it quite clear where it sees the alternative future for Scotland, though.

          1. Crubag says:

            Well, that’s reading more into it than I see, though Andrew Wilson has apparently said in interview he would prefer EU membership.

            I think the report isn’t clear on that issue, either because the party has asked not to be bound on it, or the authors themselves want to leave the party the maximum freedom of movement.

  15. SleepingDog says:

    I think that the Sex Pistol’s challenge still stands: “there is no future in England’s dreaming”.
    Is there a coherent picture of the future presented in mainstream media? Utopianism seems to have fallen into disrepute, the past is rendered in a golden haze, a five-year plan seems to be the Parliamentary party limit of horizon. More of the same? Yet the clockwork consequences are closing on doomsday midnight.

    When the UK state is compared with a dinosaur, the similarities go further than skin deep. Much of its structure has ossified, turned to bone like a triceratop tiara. A huge body serves a tiny decision-making organ. The only dinosaurs that survived had something far more flexible than bony structures, feathers that adapted for flight.

    An alternative to boneyard UK would be a Scotland that is simply more adaptable, lighter on its feet, no longer chained to modern slavery, living off the immoral earnings of warmongering, catching social diseases off its unwholesome allied bedfellows.

    An alternative that supplies capacity: if people decide that environmental protection and the good (thriving) life should be elevated to the constitution, they can make that call.
    Try doing that with the UK.

    That alternative can be sketched, the pathways to improvements described, the nature of a larger collective intelligence making decisions and continually questioning the status quo explained. The point is, rather, that with the skeletal constraints gone, old ideologies and partisanships can be replaced by clearer-sighted thought. Expect minds to change when they join on equal terms. The growth we need is in wisdom.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Do the electorate of Scotland not form a larger collective intelligence already?
      Is there any evidence of minds being changed from no to yes?
      Have you asked yourself why not?

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Jamsie, it is not simply the mass of the electorate that confers collective intelligence, but how they connected. At the moment, collective electorate behaviour is largely as consumers, picking from lists of choices, without the option to add new items to agendas, raise questions and fund research into the answers, create novel solutions, test policies and so forth.

        The electorate should be connected to non-voters home and abroad, but the children who are future generations are largely voiceless and in mainstream UK culture the imported ideas are predominantly from English-speaking zones like the USA (I’d guess that subtitled Scandinavian and French dramas on BBC4 and Channel 4 are a relatively recent addition to the mainstream).

        The classic example is the development of science, which was cross-border, grew with mass literacy, international postal services and improved with the inclusion of women. When the BBC produced a series in 2013 called the Wonder of British Science, as if it was a national concern, this is a significant distortion.

        So I would suggest to improve political decision making in a similar way, we would need traditional literacy and numeracy, but also digital literacy and data literacy and so forth, built into a system where people were making collective decisions from a young age. This would require openness, tolerance of dissenting views, diplomacy, non-proprietary intellectual thought and a range of skills that appear to be lacking in our current political establishment.

        I am not really interested in the Yes/No binary, and would view attempts to get a narrow 50%+ win in an independence referendum as quite unwise. There are a lot of other questions to engage with first (to fill the void).

        If you are saying that why people vote in particular ways here is much more significant than which way they vote (or abstain, or reject voting), then I would agree. But we will only be able to investigate that if we improve our democratic process and bring people into it. People are perfectly capable of discussing complex political questions on a large scale as historical events (often in times of upheaval or sudden laxity in censorship laws) have shown.

        1. Jamsie says:

          You make some good points but I’m afraid they amount largely to wishful thinking for me.
          Firstly the political establishment can not reconcile themselves with the democratic will of the electorate and the disconnect across the spectrum is palpably criminal.
          To hear today we in Scotland are sending £10m to Rwanda on top of the UK aid is astounding.
          This like the Ulva buy out should be used to benefit our own population living in third world conditions.
          Until you can convince that one person should have more democratic input than another then it is really all airy fairy nonsense and economics will be the main driving force for all.
          The SNP have lost the plot in terms of keeping public services at acceptable standards.
          They cannot accept criticism where it is due and worse their attention is focused on something we don’t want.
          It would be good if that collective intelligence was taken note of but as we all see that won’t happen any time soon.
          The good news is we seem to have got to a position where nothing will be possible until 2021 at the earliest.
          By that time the next Holyrood elections will have taken place and the SNP Green coalition will no longer hold a majority.
          That will be collective intelligence in action.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Jamsie, the idea that political power corrupts in predictable cycles has been apparently around at least since Ibn Khaldun, who thought that a vigorous new ruler would be succeeded by incompetent, disconnected sybarites by the 5th generation. The SNP has no special immunity, although it is fair to say that although the Scottish governmental system inherits much from the UK model, the SNP government has not tried to pack supporters into an unelected second house, or used royal prerogative to override (and privy council to bypass) parliament.

            You can see the similarities here:

            The secrecy around (UK or Scottish) cabinet decisions is supposedly needed to protect honest decision-making, although it surely has the effect of concealing blunders and criminality, and undeservedly prolonging careers and immunities.

            Does this system support good decision-making? Looking at the UK system, is anyone prepared to say that good decision-making is a feature? Of course, cabinet can be bypassed as well as parliament, for example the Suez conspiracy or Tony Blair’s sofa/presidential government style (both could only work with the monarchical command-and-control system).

          2. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            According to Jamsie, “the SNP have lost the plot in terms of keeping public services at acceptable levels”. Really? They are the best performing public services in the UK. If he thinks things are bad in Scotland, he should thank his lucky stars he does not have to suffer the increasingly privatised and overstretched English NHS, the cut to the bone English police services and massively underperforming English rail services.

          3. e.j. churchill says:

            All politics is local.

            What happens elsewhere matters little-to-nil, actually.

          4. Jamsie says:

            I don’t really think comparison with public services in England is relevant and I am surprised you would.
            The health service, the police service and public transport are all disaster areas in Scotland.
            No ifs buts or maybes!
            The point I have made many times is that the current policies of the SNP and wee Nicola are largely grandstanding constructs to try to keep the greens and others on side.
            The fact that she chooses to send aid to Rwanda, Malawi and others and chooses to fund the purchase of an island with 6 people in it hardly demonstrates a progressive outlook.
            Would it be unreasonable to expect the problems in Scotland or at least some of them to be addressed using these resources.
            If Tory austerity is really that bad surely the issues causing Scots most distress should be dealt with first?
            She is supposed to be governing for all of Scotland.
            I think you will find the majority of Scots are disgusted by these recent spending items.
            And rightly so.
            Roll on 2021.

          5. JimA says:

            Jamsie, please prove de the evidence you have that the Scottish services you mention that show the services are a disaster?

          6. Jamsie says:


            Are you serious?
            What planet are you living on?
            Police – deaths due to errors, budget issues and now £206m for an IT system after £46m has already been wasted.
            Health Service – Major budget issues, failure to meet waiting times, closure of resources and the resigning issue that of course did not happen using specifically targeted charitable donations for capital spend.

            Public transport – ever increasing fares, trains hardly ever on time, bus companies subsidies in hundreds of millions and a further £16m to allow them to buy green buses.
            And that’s not to mention the state of the roads.
            Maybe I got it slightly wrong.
            Maybe it is this whole dishonest administration which is a disaster.
            Only a blinkered nationalist could fail to see it.

          7. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            Scotland, for its sins, is a devolved part of the UK. The key word is “devolved”. What happens in England is what would be happening in Scotland if devolution had not taken place. It is the base line by which the Scottish Govt must be measured. It performs well above that base line for the devolved services it provides. Therefore, it is doing a good job. Especially as the bulk of the budget it has to allocate is determined at Westminster. To try and claim the comparison with the base line is meaningless is disingenuous in the extreme.

          8. Jamsie says:

            Absolute nonsense!
            The targets set for waiting times are the SNP targets.
            It does not matter what happens in England or anywhere else.
            What matters is whether our public services are delivering a.) what was promised and b.) what people require.
            They are not!
            The only thing that is being delivered is fudge and deliberate mendacity.

          9. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            Yes Jamsie, exactly. SNP targets. High standards they set themselves. Higher than anything Labour ever set themselves and the Scottish NHS under the SNP has always outstripped what it ever achieved under Labour/LD administrations … even when it falls below its own high standard.

            The SNP is doing a remarkable job considering it has to act within the austerity driven UK financial straight-jacket. Its not perfect but it never will be under those circumstances (or any for that matter … people will always want more). However, continual, disingenous SNP-bad whining in the hope the general public won’t question it (we all know the media never will) will eventually, I can only hope, rebound on Unionists.

          10. e.j. churchill says:

            MBP said:

            “…it has to act within the austerity driven UK financial straight-jacket…”

            The actual number of the annual Block Grant and Overdraft, belie that talking point rather brutally.

            ’tis sad


          11. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            You seem to not understand how the block grant works churchy. Strange for a self styled financial wizard.

            The block grant is determined by spending in England. The block grant is determined by having a sum of money equal to a percentage of whatever Westminster spends on services in England assigned to it. If budgets are squeezed in England, then the block grant is also squeezed. Therefore, the Scottish Govt is working “within an austerity driven UK financial straight-jacket”.

            Hope this helps you understand.

    2. scrandoonyeah says:

      you might enjoy listening to ‘The Waterboys’ ‘old England is dying’

      1. JimA says:

        Jamsie, I’m not sure why your were let out but you are obviously delirious. I asked for evidence not sound bites. The published statistics do not support your very specific examples, one issue does not mean complete failure. But then your wonderful union would bring us all down to the Westminster level; note that the only way for the union is down! Please do some research beyond the headlines in the Mail or stories in the other MSM outlets. You might be unpleasantly surprised how long the unionist tripe from Westminster parties has made you look foolish.

        1. Jamsie says:

          Ach well nothing to worry about is there?
          Except the truth is out there big style.
          Typical response as expected.
          You’ll be telling me next fracking is banned and wee Nicola has not had to step in to try to defend the GCR.
          Not in your world anyway eh?

          1. JimA says:

            Since your so self assured that the Scottish Government is so bad perhaps you can enlighten me what changes you would like to see, who would carry them out and how they would be paid for.

          2. e.j. churchill says:

            JimA, if I may opine, too?

            Without getting into the weeds of pro-/anti- the poison dwarf (per se):

            – the SG IS a one-person govt, and all else is support puppets, with her arm shoved up their tookus.

            – which leads to a VERY valid criticism/observation: other that the ability to PR-on-cue, the SNP is bereft of talent (or has carefully hidden talent beneath blather).

            – money is fungible and most of government, anywhere, can be re-organised.

            – as a philosophical construct (opinion, v. above demonstrable fact), I do not favour the centralist tendency & objective.

            – Clearly, objectively, the SNP & SG lie when the truth would sound better, but that is also a function of Scotland’s supine & co-opted media.

            – While (real or imagined) consta-GGG is an integral SNP/SG strategy, it has a severe opportunity cost.

            This may/may not be what you want, but I’m a non-dom and other than financial, I have no interest if Scotland floats off or stays attached, but to any kind of informed, aware, outside observer, the above are not especially debatable.

            ’tis sad


          3. e.j. churchill says:


            Over the recent past, I have had four dealings with SG Ministers/Deputies, in which they were (ostensibly) seeking to discuss assistance from the combine of which I was a part.

            I found them, all, to be shallow, innumerate, ignorant, arrogant, condescending, insulting and surprised/shocked our meeting ended (simile alert >>) like a guillotine dropping.

            That said: those behaviours may have been their ‘face.’ I have found Ministers elsewhere to be similar, on occasion.

            In general, I do not expect pols to be much of a sharp knife in the drawer and I’m rarely disappointed, but these SG appeared to be duller-edged, still.

            ’tis sad


          4. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            Me-thinks our churchy is a bit of a Walter Mitty. Claims of being a “city bankster”, while being ignorant of how currencies are set up, and of being a mover and shaker among the great and the good tend to lend credence to my suspicions. All we know for sure is that he doesn’t like the SNP and thinks Scotland cannot support itself adequately. We should take this into account when assessing the veracity of any, if not all, of his claims.

          5. e.j. churchill says:

            You got not one thing correct, but at least your reading comprehension is consistent. Scottish education?

          6. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

            Yeah, yeah churchy. Whatever you say. If you’re such a big cheese, why are wasting your time talking nonsense and sowing discord on this thread? All you’ve done is make patronising, evidence-free assertions that don’t stand up to a minimum of scrutiny and troll. Still, whatever floats your boat.

  16. Redgauntlet says:

    Ask yourselves this: who are the SNP trying to convince with a 350 page report? Not the electorate.

    Who in their right mind is going to read a 350 report on a future independent Scotland, except the few with a special interest?

    The report is for the City of London, the markets, business.. that’s who it’s for.

    And if that’s who it is for, what does it tell you about the kind of independent Scotland the SNP want?

    It’s independence for the people who run Scotland from London. Hard to see any more independence for the rest of us…

    All this passion, all this wailing and gnashing of teeth. For what? A neo-liberal banker’s vision of Scotland?

    Oh, hud me back…

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Yup, Red, this is a p5 reading level ‘design document’ with a wide & diverse intended audience. In no fashion is it a prospectus, nor should it be.

      The ‘Summary’ is what’s important and the ‘Summary’ is obnoxiously and insultingly 10x too long. Whoever Wilson, et.al. hired, none of them was a reasonably competent editor.

      The remaining 300pp are footnotes.

      ’tis sad


      1. Redgauntlet says:

        You know, Churchill, that at the last Spanish General Elections, Podemos, the new party on the so-called and much slandered “populist Left” here modeled the party manifesto on the design of the IKEA catalogue…

        … they sold politics like flatpack furniture…and won 5 million votes…

        1. e.j. churchill says:

          They did, they did, and dropped the quaking draws of the major parties.

          Then Podemos went the way of most ‘new’ parties/ideas: the conventional Left and Right kidnapped their ideas, transmogrified them and the newly marginalised party was shoved into the Wilderness.

          ’tis the way of the world, I suppose, which makes the durability and attraction north of Naples of the Italian 5Star so incredibly unique & interesting.

          That said: a modified, limited, un-demonized, un-damned political document is pretty rare in Scotland.

          The hard-left and hard-right of the Yessirs will go batshit over certain sections, and the NO Thankyew ver’Much will yawn and say, ‘cut the cards and deal,’ but this Growth Commission is cutting furrows in unplowed ground.

          Di’ja notice, BTW, the TradeUnions were unmentioned & ignored? hmmm

          ’tis sad


          1. Redguantlet says:

            Churchill, I don’t know if you make these comments to make some kind of twisted display of ignorance, but where Podemos currently sit does not fit with your description.

            Podemos, or Podemos affiliated candidates run the municipal governments of Spain’s three biggest cities – Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia – and dozens more besides.

            At the national level, they have taken a hit because of the Catalan crisis which has polarised Catalan voters along nationalist / unionist lines, but they are still on about 18% of the national vote, and only 6 or 7 points behind the PSOE….

            The point is, they deliver their message in a modern, appealing way, they have online voting among party affiliates on a regular basis, they understand that the medium is the message…

            Which is to say, if you are offering something new, you have to offer it in a new way. You can’t offer something new in the old way, because presentation is everything, more even than the content…

            The SNP don’t understand that. They’re political dinosaurs…

          2. e.j. churchill says:

            Hi Red,

            I’m familiar with Podemos. I’ll stay with my assessment that they are a ± remote 3rd party. (unless they ally w/PSOE. unlikely, but … it’s politics) I think we may be looking at the same thing through different lenses. Kudos on their local successes, which are not insignificant.

            I ‘spect the known and yet-to-be-known ‘Catalan Effects’ will be with Spain for a long time.

            I certainly agree with your assessment of SNP & modernity.

            ’tis sad


          3. Redguantlet says:

            “A remote third party” you say? Oh yeah?

            The PSOE just presented a Motion of No Confidence in Rajoy’s govt which will be voted on this week in the Spanish Parliament.

            The biggest party backing the Motion after the PSOE is Podemos, and if it carries, they may form part of the next government….

            According to you, that’s insignificant…?

            Yeah, man, whatever…

          4. e.j. churchill says:

            Hi Red,

            I’m afraid I see what IS, not what I wish was there.
            In esp, PP IS the lead dog on the sled.
            PSOE is yapping snack-size dog, and Podemos is not there yet as a major player – they may/may not get there, but they are selling sizzle – not steak.

            That/those will surely change sometime – but they are existential ATP.


  17. Robert says:

    I’ve downloaded the report but not had a chance to read it yet.
    From other people’s comments I thought the report suggested sticking with the pound only temporarily, to allay the fears of people worried about their mortgages, but with the goal of moving to a new currency in a few years when the framework us in place?

    Is that not right? The article here suggests otherwise.

    If the idea is to commit to sterling permanently then it’s a non starter as far as I’m concerned, but is that really what the report suggested?

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Good catch.

      It’s purposefully ambiguous, but startlingly clear: ‘What and/or When/If will depend on Scotland’s needs.’

      What is pretty-well acknowledged is the GB£ (and/or US$) will (‘as long as it meets Scotland’s needs’) be used while/when debt & deficit are tamed. Assuming a run of unbelievable good luck, a booming world economy, serious purpose and sufficient political will (HA!), that might be as little as 4-5yrs.

      Yep, I know there are a lot wiggle words in there.

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      The idea is to use Sterling until it’s deemed more beneficial to use our own currency, as judged by six tests detailed in the report. To my mind, the tone is slightly “use Sterling for as long as we can”, whereas I think we should be saying “use Sterling only as long as we need to”. The timescale may end up being pretty much the same in both scenarios, but it makes the intent clearer. That can all be teased out over the summer, though. However, it certainly doesn’t call for us to use Sterling permanently, and even the 10 year figure you’ll be seeing bandied about is just the top end of the proposed transition period, rather than the minimum timescale critics of the report are trying to make it out as.

      1. Doug – as George Kerevan has pointed out “everybody close to the Commission knows the word is 10 years or more. We need to say upfront that a Scot currency is central to our plan. Baltic states did it in 3 yrs.”

        1. Doug Daniel says:

          And the member of the Growth Commission he was debating with called that hearsay (while also calling for the transition to happen as quickly as possible).

          I guess George knows better than someone who was actually on the committee, though.

  18. Graeme Purves says:

    Andrew Wilson’s neoliberal ‘Epistle from Balerno’ is astonishingly out of tune with the zeitgeist. I suspect it will soon be given a decent burial.

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      Hopefully you’re right, Graeme, but this is a total fck up by an out of touch government who have been in power too long….

      What planet are the SNP on? This report stinks of everything we want to ditch along with the UK…


    2. Alf Baird says:

      The road or rather the seaway to sustainable economic growth is for the better located countries to intercept trade via container transhipment terminals for many other countries in the same region. This is what many former colonies and strategic naval bases have done in order to develop their economies – e.g. Singapore, Hong Kong, Panama, Colombo, Suez, Malta, Gib/Algeciras, Freeport Bahamas, Oman, and Dubai of course. The Netherlands and Belgium have also created European entrepots at Rotterdam and Antwerp/Zeebrugge in order to intercept international trade for numerous third countries. Wilson’s report does not really allude to what is a similar opportunity that exists for Scotland, and in particular the development of a container transhipment facility at the former naval base of Scapa Flow on the Pentland Firth channel which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea, and hence Baltic Sea/Scandinavia, and also new trade routes being developed via trans-Arctic Ocean in future. Quite a bit of research has been done on this though our public sector decision makers have shown the usual inertia: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966692305000086

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        ONE of the negative/realistic points against is Scotland’s geography. It is horribly out-of-the way for much transport. That it is duplicative of both Rotterdam and London-Thames is another anti-point.

        OTOH, trans-Arctic DOES present some significant (ice-free) opportunities, to which SG/SNP is blind a/o clueless.

        ’tis amazing (as well as sad)


        1. Alf Baird says:

          Not ‘horribly out of the way’ at all. Many transatlantic strings run mainline boats in via Pentland Firth (shorter crossing) and out via Dover Str, and vice versa. Some transatlantic strings also run ‘westabout’ via Panama to/from North Asia and Australasia. Moreover, most of the transhipment markets currently fed via the Le-Have to Hamburg range are closer to Scapa Flow (e.g. Scotland, Northern England, Ireland, Baltic/Scandinavia, Arctic Russia, N. Atlantic islands, Iberia even), and avoid Kiel Canal fees too. You may be a banker Churchill who thinks the Thames is just topping but were you ever a container shipping clerk? And do you even have a PhD in global container shipping strategic management?

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