Scotland in Union’s first London supporters’ event, 11th July 2016
Scotland in Union welcomed politicians, journalists and supporters to an evening event at the Caledonian Club in London on Monday 11th July.
SIU founder and Executive Director Alastair Cameron opened the event by thanking people for their support and encouragement (a full text of his speech can be found here). He talked about SIU’s background and three ‘strategic themes’: cultural, rational and political. Alastair encouraged Scots to recognise and celebrate our shared culture across the UK as well as being proud to be Scottish. He emphasised that the benefits of Scotland being in the UK are financial and non-financial, citing the influence Scotland has in the world via the UK, and the benefits of the UK’s embassies when travelling abroad.
Alastair also discussed the EU referendum result, saying that the ‘Remain’ vote in Scotland should not be seen as a vote to break up the UK, and cautioning against any premature referendum on Scotland’s future.
The attendees heard next from businessman and economic blogger Kevin Hague, who expanded on material which can be found at his ‘chokka blog’ website here. Kevin used the Scottish Government’s GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures to demonstrate how the economic impact of Scotland leaving the UK would be far greater than the economic impact on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU.
Kevin showed that, far from being ‘a bonus’, oil and gas revenues were absolutely fundamental to the economic case for Scottish independence.and he demonstrated how fluctuations in Scotland’s fiscal position relative to the rest of the UK are almost entirely explained by rises and falls in oil tax revenues. He highlighted the way in which the Barnett formula has helped Scotland over the past years, and demonstrated how Scotland gets more back per head via Barnett than it contributes to the tune of about £1,700 per person per year. Kevin also noted that Scotland’s internal exports to the rest of the UK are more than twice as high as those to the rest of the world.
Kevin described the £10bn deficit gap which the Barnett formula covers, and stressed that this gap is less than the actual deficit which a “pro-forma” independent Scotland would have, which would be about £15bn, or 10% of GDP. In the context of the EU referendum, Kevin noted how hard it would be for Scotland to achieve the 3% maximum deficit which would be required to join the Euro, and that the combination of public spending cuts and tax rises which would be needed would be unprecedented. He also demonstrated that for Scotland to eliminate the deficit gap by outgrowing the rest of the UK would require 16% superior growth in onshore revenues – something that would take over 100 years to achieve based on the assumptions the Independence White Paper itself suggested.
Paul Sinclair, political columnist and former Labour adviser, then spoke about his concerns that a second Scottish referendum could happen, as a result of SNP members agitating for it and Nicola Sturgeon’s desire for a place in the history books. He said that there is an urgent need for a cultural campaign to make a positive emotional case for the UK, and to build this message from the grassroots up, encouraging people to speak up in favour of the union.
Paul acknowledged the formidable strength of the SNP, and how they have taken over civic Scotland. He also lamented the demise of some cross-UK cultural bonds, but said we could still make an emotional case for the union. He provided some anecdotes from the 2014 referendum campaign to illustrate his points, and called for people to be open and confident in asserting their Britishness as well as their Scottishness. He also said that it was important that businesses stood up and were counted during a future campaign. Paul concluded with an appeal to everyone present to play their part in influencing people to see how the parts of the United Kingdom working together in the union.
After some Q&A, Alastair wrapped up by asking everyone to spread the word about the reality in Scotland, which may be missed by people who do not read or watch the Scottish media and Scottish editions. He asked people to support SIU directly, and to spread the word about SIU as an organisation. Alastair concluded with an appeal to all SIU’s supporters to do something small for the UK every day, or every week, and said he remained confident that nationalism would not prevail in the long run.
SIU will be holding other supporters events in future, in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. To find out more about SIU, you can sign up to our newsletter here.
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