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Saturday, January 20, 2007


Yesterday (Friday night) Scotland on Sunday held a debate between the SNP's deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon & Labour's heir over the water Wendy Alexander on Scotland's future & independence.

The vote went for independence which should fighten the other parties since this was an audience middle class respectability. I don't actually believe that 2/3rds of the audience actually want independence so much as wanting to give the Labour establishment a kicking.

I can't say I found either inspiring but Wendy was able to give facts & figures where Nicola wasn't. On the other hand she did make a point of saying that reasons for preserving the union were to combat global poverty (something Gordo is into & she is his acolyte) & climate change - bot hof which seemed irrelevant to the question.

I found it extremely interesting that a large amount of the debate focused on getting the power to cut corporation tax. Nicola, who is generally more on the SNP's socialist left was pushing this as a reason for separation but Wendy was also firmly for more fiscal powers though she didn't make the specific leap to cutting CT, which she obviously can't under present Labour policy. Wendy did prick Nicola's balloon quite effectively when, after the latter had done her - we will cut CT & we will become as rich as our small neighbours Ireland, Norway & Iceland by using the policies open to them - by pointing out that Ireland's policies of low CT & economic free marketism are very different to Norway's high tax welfarism - which one will you choose & what spending cuts will you make to match CT cuts. The answer was that the Laffer curve (though she didn't use & possibly didn't know the term) whereby lowering tax cuts lead to more business & therefore the same or more net tax is, in the medium term true but indicates a lack of clear thought on immediate choices. I saw no sign that Nicola understands that Ireland's growth depended not just on cutting tax but on cutting regulations, particularly building regulations. Wendy on the other hand clearly does understand this & doesn't want it - like the Lib Dems she considers this policy, however successful "too right wing" to accept. It does seem to be true that you can afford a lot of welfare without damaging business growth so long as it is (A) run competently & (B) we as individuals are willing to pay it rather than shunting the expense off on business. Singapore, Sweden & perhaps Norway are examples of the latter.

Strangely enough Wendy made little use of the perfectly valid point that losing the "Union dividend" provided by the Barnett formula will lose us something between £11 & £2 billion (depending on whose figures you believe, how much of the oil we get & what its future price is).

If this is anything to go by the main theme of the election may be indepence but the underpinning subtext wil be bettering the Executive's abysmal economic performance by cutting CT. Here's hoping.
In the Q&A section I asked about our forthcoming loss of 50% of Scotland's electricity, saying independence would be meaningless if we can't power the economy. Despite some audience approval, possibly correctly because it wasn't really on topic, they weren't asked to answer. Both are anyway clearly against nuclear but I would have liked to see them defend the position.

UPDATE Scotland on Sunday report
The two contenders, Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP and Wendy Alexander for Labour, both made passionate and eloquent speeches. This was a memorable encounter, with the Nationalists winning the day on an audience vote.

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