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.
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.”
“…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.
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 #Repealthe8th 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.