SNP's Scottish plans viable for NI?

The Scottish National Party’s plans for creating a flourishing Scottish economy involve making Scotland among the 15 most competitive countries in the world with a 3% growth in population by 2015. Could any of the SNP’s suggestions work in Northern Ireland?

Under its “Let Scotland Flourish” plan, the SNP plans to reduce corporation tax by a third to 20%, a policy that would have an even greater effect in Northern Ireland, which is in direct competition with the neighbouring Irish Republic, where the rate is just 12.5%.

Why the urgency?
Scotland has struggled with the lowest long-term growth rate in the European Union over the last generation. The result is a predicted loss of half a million people over the next 40 years.

The growth gap between Scotland and the UK has grown to 30% and the SNP say something that could be said about how NI politicians look to solve the same problem there.

“Our opponents would have us focus on block grants from the
Treasury, chasing bigger shares of public spending to combat growing social problems. But we need more than just plans for spending; we also need plans for the kind of growth that will allow us to fund our social democratic ambitions for Scotland. In short, it is time for us to stop talking about social democracy in Scotland and start earning it.”

The paper also includes specific actions such as lower corporation tax, lower business rates to below the English level and institute a proactive immigration policy that welcomes ‘new Scots’ and encourages people to move back to Scotland.

“In 2002, the growth rate over the last 25 years showed Scotland lagging significantly behind the UK, which in turn was
outperformed by small European nations and dramatically outshone by our nearest neighbour, Ireland.”

25 year average annual growth rate (1979-2004)
Scotland: 1.8%
UK: 2.3%
Small EU countries: 3.1%
Ireland: 5.2%

The most pertinent paragraph in my view is:

“The role of government in an increasingly globalised economy is to create the best climate for economic growth by ensuring that policies are carefully tailored to the specific circumstances of the nation.”

How can the politicians of Northern Ireland deliver the climate necessary to make the region competitive if they are so content to remain under direct rule?

  • aquifer

    They could spend money on public infrastructure such as health services, R&D, parks and public transport instead of paying more public sector salaries, making NI more attractive for inward human and capital investment.

  • Pang

    If Northern Ireland found a way to pay for iteslf then it would have more options open for its future. Lets be real here though, does Northern Ireland want to pay for itself?
    The SDLP and the Shinners are left leaning and are happy with more jobs but wouldn’t want to limit social spending.
    By always leaning on London for cash the Unionists are given an extra reason why Dublin will never interfere too much (Free Staters don’t want to pay for Unity).

  • maca

    “Free Staters don’t want to pay for Unity”

    What does it have to do with South Africa? 😉
    Assuming you mean people from Ireland, have you asked them?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Interesting that unionists will not look to the Republic’s achievements for economic lessons but will eagerly look to Scotland for proposals. Yet the Scots are looking to the Republic.

  • Ringo

    Billy Pilgrim –

    I think it is understandable from their point of view – developing a NI economy modeled closely on the Republic would be a problem for Unionism on a number of fronts – if significant harmonisation existed between the two economies, then that is one big obstacle removed from the road to a UI.

    Reminds me of the train systems in Spain and France – when planning their train system the Spanish used a different guage to that which the French so when you reached the border at Irun you had to change trains (10 years since I had to – presume it is still the same). The idea was to to prevent the French from invading via the rails.

    On a more symbolic level – the idea of modelling the economy on the Republic rather than a comparable other part of the Union is less appealing to Unionists. There is a similar reluctance in the Republic (greatly diminished now due to growing confidence I think) to using the UK as an example to us for anything – much better go with the neutral Swede’s – no baggage.

  • fair_deal

    The Scottish parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly have similar powers as devolved institutions hence the greater relevance of its experience while the RoI has all the tools of a national parliament. The motivation is practicality not political.

  • Ringo

    Meant to add that I would imagine Unionism would like to do like the Spanish – develop what is essentialy the same type of system as the neighbours but make strategic alterations to prevent convergence but foster parallelism.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Fair Deal

    “The Scottish parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly have similar powers as devolved institutions hence the greater relevance of its experience while the RoI has all the tools of a national parliament. The motivation is practicality not political.’’

    Sorry to be blunt about it, but that’s bullshit.

    Ask anyone in business and they’ll tell you location is everything. Now, the fact is that northern Ireland is in Ireland, not in Britain. The Irish government has set out long-term economic strategies that deal with the realities of location. We have never seen such planning in the north, precisely because decision-makers in the north have always been drawn from the political majority – and the political majority’s core principle has always been to pretend they’re not in Ireland at all.

    Now, we can argue politics of it all day long. We can argue about our divided society, about the legitimacy but essential incompatibility of our aspirations and so on and so on. Fact is, economics doesn’t give a tuppeny fuck (as we say in Armagh) about any of that.

    Dublin’s economic model is our best bet. I’m not saying that because I’m a nationalist, and therefore would say that anyway. Economics are brutal, and the facts of life are the facts of life. Countering economic arguments with feelings is a child’s response.

    Ask any economist in the world who doesn’t have an emotional stake in Ireland. They’ll smile at interesting facts like the proximity of Port Patrick to Larne, but they won’t accept that as a good reason why there are neither motorways nor rail links from Dublin to Derry. (And as a result, no motorways or railways serving the west of NI.) They’ll tell you that borders are poison when it comes to running an economy, and a border on a small island like this is, frankly, an obscene waste.

    This reality won’t change, no matter how much anyone wishes it would. Economics has no time for anyone’s feelings. The economic reality is that partition is an obscenely expensive luxury. The challenge for unionism is to make it less obscenely expensive. The difficulty is that the best way to do that undermines unionism. It’s tricky, I know, but hey, no-one is forced to be a unionist. Unionists CHOOSE the economic insanity of partition. I don’t.

    Economically, the north is a cell on dirty protest. This situation will continue as long we continue with the ineffably pathetic status quo where our decision-making class rejects good ideas for fear that our interests, God forbid, might coalesce with those of the rest of Ireland – wilfully blind to the fact that they already do.

    Ringo

    “Developing a NI economy modeled closely on the Republic would be a problem for Unionism on a number of fronts – if significant harmonisation existed between the two economies, then that is one big obstacle removed from the road to a UI… On a more symbolic level – the idea of modelling the economy on the Republic rather than a comparable other part of the Union is less appealing to Unionists.’’

    I know. The fact that it would be overwhelmingly in our economic interests is set aside. I think there’s a saying about that, isn’t there? Something about cutting off your nose?

  • Gerry O’Sullivan

    Billy – you make some very good points in your 5.16. However, I feel that it is pointless trying to convince unionists of the value of a united Ireland on economic grounds. The counter argument you always hear comes in two phrases. 1. “You can’t afford us.” 2. “We’re British.”

    I won’t go into the first one as we’ve chewed the cabbage over that one many times here on Slugger. The second one is the one we miss out on.

    Even if we could prove beyond any doubt that a united Ireland would deliver stability, economic prosperity, jobs, wealth, etc. etc., unionists still wouldn’t bite. Why not? Because above all else, a united Ireland is a threat to their identity, their very Britishness. Before we start trying to sell a united Ireland on economic or any other grounds, we must first prove to unionists that their Britishness would not only not be threatened by a united Ireland, but would in fact, be cherished.

    Unfortunately, we’re a long way off from that point yet.

  • IJP

    Apparent venom weakens your otherwise interesting argument, BP. I think fair_deal in any case was merely making the point that the NI Assembly has similar powers to Edinburgh, not Dublin. 12.5% corporate tax is, for example, not an option. Whether or not it should have the same powers is another matter.

    Good points, Gerry.