Warning from across the Channel?

Mark Steyn argues that Scotland’s lack of forward momentum has much to do with a strong reliance on the public purse, and a consequent failure to attract new migrants to fill the population deficit. Now some of that sounds familiar. It may be the flip side of the Leviathan debate next week. Hat tip ATW.

  • D’Oracle

    A vous, les ecossais-si vous etes encore vivant!

  • D’Oracler

    Hey Mick ,
    I see youre up late !

    Wonder if this is the same Mr Steyn who offers all too regular insights into how the world ought to work in his neo -con Irish Times column.

    Probably not ?

  • Crataegus

    Bit of a rant which throws together Thacherite doctrines mixed in with we are being overrun with Africans, Asians and Muslims if they would even be bothered to come here. It’s a nasty bit of journalism that raises all sorts of issues and sneers at Jonnie Foreigner.

    There were two central points the first the overdependence on the state sector is correct. Businesses need to create capital and wealth to expand. How you balance the needs of business state and individual is complex enough.

    The second is the falling birth rate and declining population and the need to attract immigration.

    There seems to be a relationship between increased personal wealth and falling birth rates. We are wealthier and as a result of all that money in circulation, house prices etc shoot up and we end up unable to start families until later. In addition many young women see careers as more important than having families. The ethos of our society has changed. University fees and increased debt among the young cannot help, birth rates are going to remain low.

    But we live in a world of finite resources so we cannot have constantly expanding populations. There must be a better way forward. Is growth and sucking in immigrants necessary in the long term? It seems obvious that the surplus money in circulation is of little long term benefit as it simply increases house values and whilst that is an asset if the population does start to fall its value might drop. Reducing personal disposable wealth by increasing the amount saved for retirement (provided one can control one’s assets) may be the way forward. Less money in circulation may cause a stop to house price increases and provide financial independence in old age. BUT will that not also reduce the amount of money available to most businesses and potentially be deflationary?

  • Harry Flashman

    Scotland is a basket case and the Scots know it that’s why they will never vote for independence. They much prefer to sit in their gloomy misery cursing the English who keep their economy alive – no please don’t start about North Sea oil, honestly it’s a broken record, even if all the oil reveneues were kept in Scotland the Scots would still require the massive subvention they receive from the only part of the UK that makes any profit, the South East of England.

    It’s tragic to see how institutional socialism (Glasgow City council is to all itents and purposes a one party state, Labour is in control with Labour also the opposition) can deaden even the most entrepreneurial people. One hundred years ago the Scots were the most dynamic people on the planet, they set up great tarding houses, built every bloody bridge, road tunnel, canal, ship whatever in the world, they were engineers, soldiers, doctors, inventors, explorers, missionaries. They were proud and forward looking now look at them; introverted, morose, drinking themselves into an early decline. Christ, as Steyn points out they couldn’t even film Braveheart in Scotland as the dreary union regulations and state control ruled it too expensive. Instead they filmed it in a much more dynamic, capitalist, freewheeling nation; the Irish Republic, my how the wheel turns!

    My theory is that the best that Scotland had to offer was wiped out during World War One, they were the real Flower of Scotland. No country’s menfolk joined up in such numbers as the Scots and I think only the Serbs suffered a heavier death toll. Just drive through any town or village in Scotland and stare in awe at the war memorials, it was a mini Holocaust.

    This was Scotland’s tragedy, they even did it again in World War Two, there’s a memorial to the Scots of WW2 in Glasgow. The figures escape me off the top of my head but I think it says that eight million men served in British and Commmonwealth forces during the war, that’s including Canada, Australia and India by the way and Glasgow alone accounted for about a quarter of a million of them, someone in Glasgow can I’m sure provide the correct figures.

    Now the Scots seem to lack all vigour as anyone who has been there can affirm. The Scots drink in a truly enormous scale, they leave us Irish in the ha’penny place, they smoke like chimneys and eat the worst food in the world. Last month statistics showed that life expectancy for men in Glasgow is lower than in the Gaza Strip and Glasgow has the highest murder rate in western Europe.

    Scotland, when will we see your likes again? Never I fear.

  • Brian Boru

    Scotland is paying the price of having English MPs setting its corporation-tax rates, and of having its oil revenues requisitioned by England. The Republic’s independence has been vindicated by the Celtic Tiger so that shows the way to go. Westminster’s sponging off Scotland’s oil is another form of colonialism as far as I can see.

    On immigration, I reject the hype by the PC-brigade about how its ‘needed’. The South of Ireland was doing ok before we let loads of people in.

  • Henry94

    The South of Ireland was doing ok before we let loads of people in.

    For most of its existence it was sending loads of people out. The policies that finally created jobs for Irish people at home continued to create jobs after everybody had a job. Thus immigrants were needed.

  • Crataegus

    Scotland, much of Wales, many of the regions in England and NI suffer the same problem. The economic framework in Great Britain is set to suite the South East of England and that framework does not suit the regions. The traditional industry that these regions once depended on cannot be viable with costs in Britain at current levels. In fact I doubt if any business in Western Europe is viable in the long term given the cost disadvantage with China and India. Why locate in Kilkenny when you could as easily locate in Madras.

    We talk about subvention but I wonder how the economy of the South East would fair long term if Westminster, its government and all its departments were relocated to say Manchester? In my experience expenditure and investment in London is on a scale the rest of the country dream off. Even Lottery allocations; in London project costs are astronomical elsewhere meagre.

    Great Britain needs proper regional policy and tax and benefit structures that are straightforward but which encourage people to consume less and invest more and get out and create their own businesses. It needs to viciously streamline government and get rid of pointless regulations.

    If I could give an example; a colleague of mine wishes to build a store for timber beside his EXISTING joinery works. He is not employing anyone extra, and the proposal is simply to provide space on site to store wood. He has to provide parking for the disabled, OK easy done but there is no way a person in a wheelchair could work here. Then he has to provide a covered bicycle stand. Now if you knew where it was you would realise that cycling is not really going to be an option and the DOE of course see the problem and thus require him to incorporate showers and changing facilities for cyclists. Two problems firstly the requests are not related to reality and secondly the serious delay they cause delays that investment. Running a business in this country, in this region is just misery and I am constantly coming up against well educated people in the public sector and quangos who get paid end of the month if they produce nothing constructive. Many don’t care a toss and cynicism in some branches is endemic. Has to change.

  • George

    The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be the will in Scotland to grasp the nettle. Easier to take the London cheque than tell your constituents, who already are among the most deprived in Europe, that things are going to get worse before they get better.

    For example, CBI Scotland’s director, Iain McMillan, said only this week that following Ireland by moving to a lower tax regime was fraught with danger.

    “the devil is in the detail. I cannot see any reason why business would want to champion extending the powers of the parliament from what they are now. We have to be very very careful about how we proceed on this issue, not least because the amount of money that is spent by various tiers in Scotland is considerably more than is raised in taxes, and that gap is growing….

    …Scotland does very well out of the UK pot of money. The point raised by the SNP and the Conservatives, that the Scottish Parliament would be more responsible in how it spends its money if it raised it itself, is a very simplistic view.”

    McMillan wants the public spending cuts to come first because otherwise borrowing would rocket.

    The political will isn’t there for the tough decisions because when given the choice between taking the London handout or taking the pain there is always only one answer.

    He says about cutting spending or increasing borrowing:

    “I don’t hear many people calling for either of these options or a mixture of both. The gap would be far too high for any measure of prudence in terms of our cost to income ratio in Scotland, and would substantially breach the stability and growth pact.”

    Lowering corporate tax would simply lead to transfer pricing within the UK.

    “The natural way for any business to behave would be to make sure that costs are attributed to the higher tax regime, and the profits in the area where the tax take is low. The revenue authorities on both sides of the Border would take a close interest in this, and rightly so. Companies would have to arrange their affairs to cope with this extra bureaucracy involved. I don’t hear anybody who supports fiscal autonomy mentioning these points, and frankly I don’t think they have been thought through.

    “It’s a pipe dream, it’s not affordable, and I don’t know of any sub-national jurisdiction that has it.”

    It’s only a pipe dream as long as Scotland remains a sub-national jurisdiction.

  • George

    Harry,
    interesting post. BBC says nearly 150,000 Scots died in WWI out of a population of 4.76 million. I don’t know if that type of figure could really spell the death knell of a nation.

    Brian, here’s a sobering thought for you on Scottish oil revenues as you seem to be either trotting out falsehoods or you don’t know the facts. Figures released last month.

    Annual tax revenue of 34 billion was generated in tax in Scotland.
    This left a gap of 11.3 billion, which has to be filled by tax collected in England, as Wales and Northern Ireland are also heavily subsidised.

    Even if Scotland had collected every penny of tax raised from North Sea oil, it would still have required a 7 billion subsidy from England.

  • Scotsman

    Steyn’s basic message appears to be that the Scots, featherbedded by high public spending, have become spineless (to the point of immorality) and uncompetitive and sooner or later this is likely to happen across Europe.

    Cue the usual buzz-words like “sclerotic” and the implication that public spending is “crowding out” private investment.

    The truth is more complex, and it’s amusing to hear the shrillness of the neocons as they watch the Tories wash their hands of them.

    These people undermine their own arguments with their zealotry. It’s a waste of energy arguing with them.

  • Jocky

    A couple of other points worth considering.

    Scotlands population is declining at a rate of knots, with a huge brain drain. Anyone that’s well qualified can do the same job further south for more money (and better weather). This is common throughtout the UK but is more pronounced in Scotland.

    If you look at areasd of Glasgow people claiming incapacity beneift is at 1/3 of 1/4 of the eligible workforce (or something ridiculously high) as widely reported last week.

    Which leaves Scotland with massive demographic problems.

    Which the scottish parliment have manifestly failed to address, but hey they’re tackling secterianism which is apparently Scotland’s shame (no laughing at the back). Why be a MSP when you can be Chancellor or even PM of the UK!!

    Scotland not only benfits from the worst of institutional socialism, why anybody in Glasgow votes for Labour is beyond me, constant failure guaranteed. Harry forgets it also suffered the worst of Thatcherism, the seeds being planted with the destruction of the traditional industries that cast entire communities adrift.

  • Biffo

    “But it is all more complicated than that. The modern Scot is prepared to fight – or, at any rate, strike – but only for the right to die in his bed on a government pension.”

    Those crazy old Scots, imagine wanting to die in bed – with a government pension!!!

    They should look at how real men do it in the new dynamic parts of the world – like Iraq – strap on a load of explosives and take out 50 government workers with you – creating 51 new jobs and further economic opportunities in ancillary industries.

    Everybody wins, thanks to the Americans and the British (minus the Scots).

    None of that gay dying in your bed nonsense

    Thank God (or Allah) that we have people like Steyn to make sense of this crazy world.

  • Beezer

    These observations confirm to me that the federal political entity that is the UK is no longer an efficient or coherent way in which to approach the world in the 21st century. The needs and aspirations of the different regions of GB&NI need a more flexible and agile administration which neither the parlaiment at Westminster nor the various regional assemblies can offer. Each region has its own demographic (let’s use this a euphamism to cover the sectarian issues also), political, cultural, and economic challenges. These challenges need to be faced at the regional, federal (UK), European (EU) and global levels. The present set up is contributing to the problems rather than facilitating solutions. The present success of the ROI is due to many factors, but not least among them is the flexibility to take decisions close to the problem and implement policy decisions quickly decisions. Until that essential democratic link is re-established in particular in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the downward spiral will continue with huge social cost.