It is very difficult to square off what its proponents have been saying in the media with what is contained in this motion. It adopts the Growth Commission almost verbatim, with the only change I can see is that the fiscal rules (the strongest ‘austerity’ part of it) not being mentioned.
After three pages of platitudes, what this motion does is to enshrine the appalling ‘six tests’ model for currency and hands the decision over to whatever Parliament is elected in an independent Scotland. It seems to loosely commit the SNP as a party to asking for a vote in the parliament during its first term, but it does not explain the position if these tests were not met during that parliament.
Would the SNP vote for a currency its own ‘six tests’ say shouldn’t be introduced? Does it think it is likely to win a vote if the other parties in the parliament are able to say ‘but you haven’t met your own tests’? What if it isn’t the biggest party. What then?
The SNP membership is being sold something very, very different from what they are being told they are being sold. I really hope that people have time to understand what this motion really says. It categorically does not commit Scotland to having its own currency.
I have spoken to many serious economists since this report was launched, not all of them from the left of the political spectrum by any means. Not one of them has a good word to say about the Growth Commission report – and yet this is to define the SNP from hereon out.
Every one of those economists see the six tests as a Gordon Brown-style trick for NOT introducing a Scottish currency. Can I remind you once again that one of the six tests is that the size of the public sector must be sharply reduced as a proportion of the overall economy.
I am begging the delegates who will be going to the SNP conference not to be conned by the rhetoric around this. Please, read this motion carefully. It seems to me to have entirely and utterly disregarded everything its own membership told it during the National Assemblies.
Personally, I’d reject the whole thing in favour of the motion committing to a Scottish currency as quickly as possible after a Yes vote. This was submitted by Edinburgh Central but, surprise surprise, it seems to have got ‘lost in the post’ and doesn’t appear on the conference agenda. (Yay for party democracy, eh?)
But I know how SNP conference works and that may not be possible. If that’s the case, I think it needs two amendments. First, take out II: 28 – 29. The idea that the weedy negotiating stance proposed by the Growth Commission and the perpetual ‘solidarity payment’ are either in the interests of Scotland or reflect the will of the party is miles from reality.
Then simply delete III onwards and replace it with text along the line of ‘The SNP will therefore adopt a policy that, immediately on an independence vote, work to establish a Scottish currency will begin immediately and the currency will be implemented as quickly as possible’.
If this does not happen, the SNP leadership will have provoked a crisis in the independence movement.
An extract of the provisional agenda of the SNP spring conference is published below:
Resolutions1. SUSTAINABLE GROWTH COMMISSIONI) Reaching our full potential with independence – matching the success ofother small, independent nations.i. Conference notes that Scotland is a prosperous and successful nation,with significant economic assets and advantages, such as our vastnatural resources, the skills and education of the people who live hereand a range of sectors with existing and potential globalcompetitiveness. Scotland is a rich country with the potential toachieve more.ii. However, Conference also notes that despite these abundantresources, similarly sized independent countries with the ability totailor economic policy to their own needs have performed significantlybetter than Scotland.iii. In terms of GDP per head, the median income of the 12 smalladvanced economies considered by the Sustainable GrowthCommission is around 14 per cent higher than Scotland’s – equivalentto £4,100 per person.iv. Conference believes that the example of these similarly sizedindependent nations illustrates the vast potential for an independentScotland to develop a stronger and more sustainable economy as thefoundation for the fairer and more equal society that we seek.v. Conference therefore welcomes the publication of the SustainableGrowth Commission’s report “Scotland –the new case for optimism”which contained 50 recommendations for the future of Scotland’seconomy, and thanks the Commission for its work.vi. In particular, Conference considers that an SNP government in anindependent Scotland should adopt the Commission’s recommendedtargets of (a) matching the average growth rate of these other smalladvanced economies within ten years (or earlier if possible) and (b)closing the gap in GDP per capita with these countries within 25 years(or earlier if possible).vii. Conference also supports the work of the Scottish Government – anda number of other governments internationally – to ensure that thewellbeing of the population is at the heart of our approach to inclusiveeconomic growth, welcomes the decision of the Scottish Governmentto consider factors than just GDP, in assessing the performance of theeconomy and the country, and agrees that the Scottish Governmentnow and with independence should look for further ways to promotewellbeing in its approach to policy development, budgetary decisionsand how we measure success.
viii.Conference endorses the Commission’s advice that improvingeconomic participation and equality, increasing productivity, andgrowing Scotland’s working age population must be an independentScotland’s top economic priorities.ix. Conference welcomes the work already underway by the ScottishGovernment in these areas – including support for continuedmigration to Scotland, the development of the Scotland is Nowcampaign, progress on the Scottish National Investment Bank, theestablishment of an Infrastructure Commission, actions to reducepoverty and close the gender pay gap, and increased support forinnovation, research and development and exports.x.Conference also welcomes the Scottish Government’s inclusiveapproach and the work of the Fair Work Convention and JustTransition Commission, and agrees that future economic policies mustbe developed in partnership with trade unions, civic society andbusiness.xi. However, Conference believes that without the full powers of anindependent country the Scottish Government’s ability to act in theseareas will continue to be restricted and the potential of our nationconstrained as a result.xii. Conference therefore instructs the National Executive Committee tooversee a programme of work to develop a range of policies – buildingon those recommended by the Sustainable Growth Commission – thatan SNP government in an independent Scotland would pursue toboost population, participation and productivity; and to immediatelydevelop a campaign focused on Scotland’s economic potential as anindependent country.II) Sustainable public finances – rejecting austerity.xiii. Conference notes the Sustainable Growth Commission analysis ofScotland’s public finances.xiv. Conference agrees with the Commission that the levels of debt and deficitthat an independent Scotland will inherit is a feature of the economicmismanagement of successive Westminster governments and not areflection of the merits and opportunities of independence.xv.While there are different views on Scotland’s finances to the extent thatScotland, governed by Westminster, has an estimated notional deficit thatis higher than comparable countries, Conference believes that this is anargument for change not for the continuation of Westminster governance.xvi. Indeed, in light of Brexit, simply continuing as we are is likely to makeScotland’s fiscal position more challenging, not less.xvii. Conference endorses the view of the Commission – and indeed of the UKTreasury – that UK debt will remain the responsibility of the UKgovernment and that, by definition, an independent Scotland will startwith zero or minimal debt.xviii. However, Conference also agrees that an independent Scotland shouldmake a fair and reasonable contribution to the servicing of UK debt. Theamount of such a contribution will depend on a fair negotiation of bothdebt and assets and Conference agrees with the Commission that thiswould form part of an annual solidarity payment. Conference endorses inprinciple the Commission’s recommended approach to negotiations.xix. The deficit that an independent Scotland will inherit will be influenced bythe outcome of these negotiations and also by specific spending decisionsof an independent government – for example, in the case of an SNPgovernment, the decision not to invest in nuclear weapons.xx. Conference endorses the Commission’s recommendation that futurerevenues from North Sea oil and other windfalls should be invested in aFund for Future Generations to support intergenerational projects such asthe transition to a green economy.xxi. Conference welcomes the Commission’s conclusion that the starting deficitof an independent Scotland is manageable and fundable and can be madesustainable. Conference agrees that sustainable public finances andachieving the lowest possible cost of borrowing are important and that anSNP government will seek to maintain debt at sustainable levels andreduce the deficit to sustainable levels as early as is consistent withcontinuing support for public services, people’s wellbeing and investment.xxii. In that regard, Conference notes that the Commission’s projections takeno account of the higher growth that the powers of independence willenable Scotland to target, nor of the benefits of Scotland continuing tooperate within the EU single market.xxiii. Indeed, Conference stresses that sustainable public financesfundamentally flow from a healthy, sustainable and fair economy.xxiv. Fiscal targets must never be an end in themselves and an SNPgovernment will not pursue such targets at the expense of the economyor investment in public services. The UK government has demonstrated inrecent years that such an approach is counterproductive and harmful.xxv. Conference therefore agrees with the Commission that an austerity orcuts approach to deficit reduction should be firmly rejected. At times oflower growth, investment in the economy and public services should takepriority over short term targets.xxvi. Conference also agrees that an economic stimulus at the point ofindependence should be considered.xxvii. Conference concludes that the choice facing Scotland is the economicdecline of Brexit or taking our economic future into our own hands withindependence; and resolves to persuade the people of Scotland thatindependence offers the best pathway to a more prosperous andsustainable future.III) Towards an independent Scottish currency.xxviii. Conference notes that despite significant economic assets, naturaladvantages and a talented population, independent countries with theability to tailor economic policy to their own needs have performedbetter than Scotland.xxix. Conference notes that among small, successful independent countriesthere is no single approach to currency. Conference also notes thatthe pound sterling is a shared currency across the UK and is availablefor Scotland to use, just as Ireland did for an extended period.xxx. However, Conference believes that it should be the policy of an SNPgovernment in an independent Scotland to establish an independentcurrency; and agrees that the process and precise timescale for doingso should be subject to robust governance and guided by the six testsrecommended by the Sustainable Growth Commission.xxxi. During the period of transition to independence, work should begin onthe establishment of an independent Scottish Central Bank with aScottish Financial Authority, and the other steps required to supportthe establishment of a new currency.xxxii. Until a new currency can be safely and securely established in theinterests of the whole economy, the currency of an independentScotland should continue to be the pound sterling, ensuring continuityand stability for the Scottish people.xxxiii. Conference considers that the independent central bank should reportannually to parliament on progress toward meeting the necessarycriteria; and that an SNP government should aim to complete thepreparations to enable the Scottish Parliament to take a decision onestablishing a new currency by the end of the first term of anindependent Parliament.