2007 - 2021

Scotland’s Future: Denmark or Theme Park?

As Scottish politics becomes consumed by conspiracism it’s worth re-orienting around the economic case for independence. Here Mark Blyth co-author of Angrynomics and Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press 2002), and Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford University Press 2013) talks to David McWilliams, economist and host of the eponymous David McWilliams podcast.

‘When Scotland Rises’ is a super-sweary 53 minutes taking apart the British economy and looking forward to a Scottish democracy.

McWilliams: “The first casualty of Brexit will be Britain. Scotland is on its own path for the first time since 1707. When Scotland becomes independent, it will trigger enormous economic and political changes up here in the North West Atlantic. Mark Blyth, Professor at Brown University helps us to tease out the economics of Scottish Independence and what’s ahead for Scotland, Ireland and England.”

It’s well worth a listen (ICYMI) if you want to educate yourself on economics and hear insights from outside the bubble. The refreshing thing is how clear and confident two relative outsiders are about the case for a small European democracy to be economically viable based on the idea of responsibility and sovereignty.

Blyth is inspired by Brett Christopher’s Rentier Capitalism: Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It? – and the turgid stagnant lack of innovation in Britain. He takes apart the road to Brexit in a rentier economy and Johnson’s six years of Brexit fantasies (“jubbling nonsense”).

McWilliam’s concludes: “Sovereignty is fucking liberating”.

On his conversion to being pro-independence Blyth states: “One last thing that pushed me over was looking at the polls in terms of demography. If you look ta anybody under the age of fifty it’s an overwhelming majority, and it just gets more and more extreme the further back you go … so this is priced in, so this is going to happen, it’s just a case of when … so if you know it’s going to happen the thing to do is to do it as well as you can.”


Comments (14)

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  1. Pub Bore says:

    Denmark AND theme park. Legoland fuelled on anti-depressants!

    1. Pub Bore says:

      That said, the idea that Scotland could not survive economically outside of the UK is a ridiculous one. Whether or not we have a sovereign government in Edinburgh, we’ll still live and die, business will still be done, goods will still be created, traded, and consumed… The question is not whether Scotland COULD be an independent country (of course it could), but SHOULD it be. What are the rights and wrongs of what’s being proposed? The question of independence is a normative rather than a constative one.

      So, b*gg*r the economics! Of the nationalists and those who are clinging to their coattails in pursuit of power we need only to be asking three things:

      1. What are they selling?
      2. Why should I buy it?
      3. Why should I buy it from THEM?

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        Yes, your ‘handle’ suits your opinions – nomen est omen

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Indeed! ‘Nimi on enne,’ as the Finns say.

  2. Brian McGrail says:

    “As Scottish politics becomes consumed by conspiracism it’s worth re-orienting around the economic case for independence.”

    Is it really about ‘conspiracies’ or the ‘rule of law’? Everyone can see the imprisonment of Hasel in Spain is a breach of hard won rights to freedom of expression. Salmond won the judicial review even before it had went before a judge because the Scottish Government’s own senior counsel told the SG to concede – what had gone wrong in the process was so legally unfair (not simply a ‘procedural error’ or ‘technicality’ as the SG like to claim). Rather than doing so the SG decided to let the case ‘run’. This forced Salmond to apply for an interdict to keep the case out of the press. The interdict was applied for on a Friday, but before a judge could give a ruling on it, someone with the SG (who had to know about the case) leaked ‘the story’ to the Daily Record.

    Remember that the case was one of ’employment grievance’ at the time and not criminality. If it had been a case of criminality at that point then senior members of the SG did nothing for several months, on the basis that they had decided NOT to contact the police without the consent of the complainers. Later on, after the loss of the judicial review, the same SG employer decided to contact the Crown Agent (deputy to the Lord Advocate) without the consent of the original complainers. No-one went to a police station to report a crime in the usual manner.

    The accusation of ‘conspiracy theory’ (it’s all fantastical) is now banded about as a form of defence and means of covering up either incompetence (including senior legal counsel not being listened to) or a clear desire to circumvent the ‘rule of law’ (that cases should go before an independent judge, and not shoe-horned bureaucrats nor ‘public opinion’) – that is, the base principle of innocent until proven guilty was to be circumvented by ‘trial’ in the mass media.

    What is the point of the ‘economic case for independence’ if Scotland ends up being run by corrupt officials who deem that what’s best for the nation is what’s best for them? The Soviet Union was the fastest growing economy in the world between 1920 and 1940 (Allen, 2011, Global Economic History, OUP) – it was also a homicidal dictatorship with show trials of former members of the party and cause.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      At the risk of stating the obvious, the leak to a unionist paper suggests either someone wanting to derail the independence movement or destroy Salmond, or both.

      but we will probably never know the motive.

      I would hope they get uncovered and exposed in the press, along with their stated motivations.

  3. Gordon Purvis says:

    Thanks – had heard this already as the McWilliams podcast is always worth a listen. I would be interested to hear more also because Prof Blyth appears to be quite complemtary of the Growth Commission work. At least that is what I seemed to heard. As we all know there has been rigourous criticism of said Commission from various quarters, so I think it would be interesting to find out more on that.

    Very interesting podcast.

  4. Axel P Kulit says:

    It seems to me that the demographic shift in support for independence is as slow and unstoppable as a glacier and around now it the last chance Westminster has to prevent independence without importing the Spanish model used in Catalonia.

    The economics will interest and influence only the more mature elements of the populace.

  5. John McGowan says:

    So, it’s “fucking liberating” is it? Is that intended to be an answer to the questions many people have about the economics of an independent Scotland? Is that supposed to be “edgy”, “with it”, “out there”? What audience is that supposed to appeal to? Of course, much easier to resort to vulgarity than tell me in which currency my pension, savings and mortgage would be denominated under the SNP’s madcap plans. And that’s just a start. But it would be a good start if you could answer that one. I don’t expect an answer, by the way, so don’t go to any trouble. Just resort to your usual argument about Project Fear, a nice evasion and an obvious one. The fact that the nats never mention the dire economic prospectus described in the Growth Commission tells you all you need to know. Had this document held out the promise of a land of milk and honey Sturgeon and her minions would be shouting it from the rooftops every moment of every day. The reality is that they never mention it and want the rest of us to forget it pretend it doesn’t exist. But the truth is out there and even if you do get another referendum there will be somone else to prick the balloon, just as Alastair Darling did the last time. Project Fear? Project Truth, and the truth is what you lot cannot abide.

    1. Muiris says:

      I agree with your attitude to vulgarity, but little else, & I’m not far from pension age.

      ‘The great appear great, only because we are on our knees, let us rise’, usually attributed to James Larkin, Irish socialist. There is no reason why Scotland cannot be an independent prosperous state, Scots are just as capable, competent, and clever as any other nation, I expect.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Scotland is indeed capable of being an independent state, but why should we buy it? The world is full of independent states. Are the people who live in those political communities any better off simply in virtue of their governments being ‘independent’?

        1. Muiris says:

          Important, very valid question(s), with of course no single nor simple answer. Good government usually depends on it being responsive to the people, I suppose, nearly always some form of democracy.
          Is the UK government responsive to Scotland? (rhetorical question, no need to answer). The term ‘the Home Counties’, tells you all you need to know about power distribution in Britain, in my opinion.
          I would not rest easy in a State that did not consider me, not the area that I came from/lived in, to be just as important as any other.

          It’s a matter of self respect, at the end of the day.

          1. Pub Bore says:

            I think you’re right, Muiris. It’s not about economic prosperity or austerity; it’s about identity and what we might collectively become.

            However, the deeper question is then whether we want identity or plurality; whether we want ‘Scotland’ to be one thing or many. If we want it to be cosmopolitan and plural, we much then ask how we can institute that plurality; what political structures need to establish in order to let that plurality freely flourish. Only then can we work out how the cost of building and maintaining those structures of our well-being is to be met.

            Economics – especially fiscal economics – are informed and led by our social hopes and aspirations. Our current culture-war politics is driven by rival moralistic visions of identity, of what we as a society ‘ought’ to be, with each combatant in that war seeking to capture and use the fiscal power of the state to realise its particular vision. I anticipate that the eventual sublation of this situation will be an emergent pluralism.

    2. Hi John – its a quote from the podcast, which is flagged as being “sweary”.

      If you actually listened to the podcast – a very well considered podcast of economics analysis – it answers some of your questions.

      As for the Growth Commission – we have mentioned it many times. Do keep up.

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