Which small country will come out of the recession better, sovereign Ireland or home rule Scotland? The unionists cite Iceland and scoff at Alex Salmonds now broken arc of prosperity than includes Iceland and Ireland. The SNP point admiringly to oil-rich Norway. The blows dealt to the Scottish independence cause are affecting the balance of the debate, but like those over Gordon Browns personal fortunes –
yesterday a BBC poll showed that the lead Labour had over the Tories on the issue of economic competence had almost doubled, growing from six points to 11
only the rashest of forecasters would say theyll be decisive.
In the Herald , Ann MCGuire Lab MP for Stirling attempts a comparison between Scotland and Ireland:
Scotland was the second country in the world to industrialise. We now have a successful, diversified, post-industrial economy after 200 years of being an industrial economy completely integrated into the first industrial nation in the world. Ireland has had substantial growth in recent years, but it was from a far lower and more agrarian base.
Despite substantial growth, investment in public services remains lower than in Scotland. And this week’s emergency budget saw the real costs to Irish families of Ireland’s economic difficulties. Increased taxes. Means testing. Child benefit and child allowance cuts. What a contrast with Scotland, where Alex Salmond has a budget of £30 billion twice what Donald Dewar had in 1999 and got an extra £1 billion from Treasury, too, and where one of the main levers for injecting demand into the Scottish economy capital spending is under the control of the Scottish Government.
But a correspondent to the paper slaps this down:
It is a complete fallacy to say that an independent Scotland could not have bailed out RBS and HBOS by £37bn. Norway raised £35bn last week. Small countries respond much quicker to such events but Mr Brown dithered for the past 18 months when it was obvious things were wrong, and Ireland, with a smaller population, guaranteed up to £320bn in order to safeguard its banks.
But bank guarantees are of only part of the story look at the Irish budgets immediate tax increases and its very rough edges.
Money talks loudly in the Scottish debate especially among those, probably the great majority of Scots, who are intrigued by the SNP and badly wanted a change from the old Labour monopoly.
The Financial Times offers another reason against independence but a pretty lofty one that hardly stirs the blood, that a smaller UK would reduce its international influence. But Irish people know in their hearts that independence is not fundamentally about swaggering on the international stage, nor about economics, nor even about justice. It’s a matter of emotional preference.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London