Scotland’s main problems are homemade. With or without independence, they need to clean up their act

Every once in a while, an idea turns from captivating to dominating – pushing all others into the back seat, and along with them the inconvenient facts and snippets of reality that don’t confirm or conform to the idea at play. This, I fear, is the lens through which to view the Scottish first minister’s call for a second independence referendum.

The circumstances under which Nicola Sturgeon believes an independent Scotland will thrive remain a total mystery. Almost certainly having to give up substantial subsidies from Westminster, an independent Scotland will find itself in an economically dire situation.

Scotland has the worst deficit in the developed world, standing at a staggering 10.1 per cent of GDP (nearly double the next-worst country Japan, at 5.2 per cent). With the oil price less than half today what the SNP predicted it would be during the first referendum, Sturgeon cannot rest easy thinking that Scotland’s economy will generate the wealth needed to keep services alive or handouts flowing. As Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said, a newly independent Scotland would be faced with “a £15bn gap between what it raises in taxes and what it spends on public services”.

Sturgeon has made it clear that if she snubs her biggest trading partner by leaving the United Kingdom, she will look to amend Scotland’s forced divorce with the European Union.

Yet we are receiving almost daily reminders that a Scottish attempt to rejoin the EU will, at best, take a long time, and at worst, it is never going to happen. Just yesterday, Iceland threw its analysis into the mix, arguing that it could take years for Scotland to rejoin the Single Market, as it would need to be sovereign before consideration. This, the Icelandic foreign minister noted, was just to join the (much looser) European Free Trade Association (EFTA), not even the EU.

But it is not just the future prospects for an independent Scotland that have the SNP woefully ignorant of current circumstances. The dominating nature of their independence ideal has sidelined all other policy debates in Scotland, leaving core institutions abandoned and facing failure.

Already ranked below NHS England by the European Health Consumer Index, NHS Scotland is now facing an outright crisis, missing nearly all national targets on waiting times – including for cancer treatment and A&E. Scotland’s education system – which the SNP has intentionally shielded from the reforms implemented in other parts of the UK – faced international humiliation a few months back, after it received its worst-ever performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey. Since 2006, Scotland’s rankings for reading, maths and science fell from eleventh, eleventh and tenth to twenty-third, twenty-fourth, and nineteenth respectively.

No doubt circumstances have changed since the independence referendum in 2014. The vote to leave the EU was one of such magnitude that it does indeed seem fair to allow Scotland to have another say on its relationship with its neighbours south of the border, who may have a fundamentally different view towards governance and foreign affairs. But independence is not the only issue facing Scotland, and it is certainly not the most pressing.

The disastrous policies of centralisation and heavy spending implemented by the SNP have driven Scotland’s finances and public services into the ground. What is needed now, more than any grand debate about nationalism or sovereignty, is for SNP leaders to focus on fixing the problems their policies have created. They need to get the basics of running a country right, before they try again to go it alone.


This article was first published in City AM.

Kate is Associate Director of the IEA. Kate oversees the IEA’s Media Centre and digital platforms, creating and commissioning content for the website, social media, and ieaTV. Kate regularly features across the national media, including appearances on BBC News, Sky News, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV and BBC’s Question Time.

7 thoughts on “Scotland’s main problems are homemade. With or without independence, they need to clean up their act”

  1. Posted 20/03/2017 at 19:10 | Permalink

    Why go to all the effort of writing nine paragraphs without presenting any evidence to back the claims made when two words would suffice: SNP Bad!

  2. Posted 20/03/2017 at 19:29 | Permalink

    This is full of distortions and downright lies.Our AERIAL waiting times are 13 points ahead of England and if tareas are missed it’s simply because they are so high.You see Scotland is not afraid to aim high.! England has abandoned even recording targets
    This is simply propaganda but we are used to that, the whole weight of the establishment and media machinery was used against Scotland last time. The English govt has no concern for the welfare of the Scottish people ( the PM’so contempt for our democratically elected govt exposes that hypocrisy ),it’s simply that without us they might even be bankr8

  3. Posted 20/03/2017 at 20:57 | Permalink

    Can you explain why Scotland of all the countries that have become independent from the UK is the only one that will have this dire economic situation?

    Can you explain why most of those countries that have left also had dire economic forecasts made by right wing UK bodies, and yet they have prospered, or at least never wished to return to UK governance>

  4. Posted 30/03/2017 at 23:14 | Permalink

    Nothing about gdp kate nothing about recent oil finds. Have u read any economic facts about scotland? Please quote facts.

  5. Posted 31/03/2017 at 10:47 | Permalink

    If it’s that bad why don’t the tories let us go…
    Sorry cannae hear a thing.Oh look another oil field found in SCOTTISH WATERS

  6. Posted 28/08/2020 at 14:20 | Permalink

    What a vacuous piece! Associate Director: Are you representative of the depth of thinking within the IEA? And poor me thinking that the IEA was a ‘think’-tank.

  7. Posted 05/04/2021 at 16:30 | Permalink

    And what would the difference would be if the Tories were to rule? Sfa!
    The poor in Scotland would be poorer the English would be still holding on to one of their remaining colonies that hasn’t become independent…
    Yes, Scotland is still a colony. Colonised by the devils from the south.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *