FINDING OUT what motivates the ‘indy-curious’ – those who voted ‘No’ in the 2014 referendum but might change their minds if another vote were held – has become fashionable in Scottish politics. Recent opinion polls show a combination of factors have opened a pathway for the SNP to a possible majority in favour of breaking up the UK. Many want the First Minister to cash in her political chips as early as next year by holding a fresh constitutional ballot.
In some ways I must confess to being just a little bit ‘indy-curious’ myself, if only because I’m genuinely curious to understand what substantive, tangible economic case she would put before the people of Scotland in another referendum. For me, like many others in business, this is important.
Make no mistake, if Scotland splits from the UK in the wake of a pandemic that has caused widespread economic devastation, then it needs a realistic economic plan or risks further pain.
The SNP’s 2014 white paper prospectus roundly failed to convince a majority of voters, so what’s changed since? The party’s Growth Commission came and went, offering airy proposals that simply reinforced confusion over key issues like currency and the deficit. Yet it still divided the SNP over the likelihood of the deep austerity it offered in practice. Mainstream business leaders mostly looked away nervously, hoping the experiments it promised would never see the light of day.
This year, as the pandemic took its awful toll, the business community looked for clearer thinking. So used to disappointing Scottish Government mismanagement in industrial support cases like BiFab and Ferguson Marine, companies hoped for better. Instead they got the damp squib of the now largely forgotten Advisory Group on Economic Recovery. Now we hear that the First Minister’s predecessor Alex Salmond has proposed an alternative economic recovery plan. This at least contains some interesting ideas, even as it showcases deep divides among former allies on one hand and a paucity of imagination from Scottish ministers on the other.
If the movement to divide up the UK is itself so completely riven on short and long term economic planning, where does that leave organisations beleaguered by the pandemic, hoping for a better, more prosperous future?
The truth is, there is no plan; no vision for how Scotland would be more prosperous and more conducive to business and growth in the economy if we left a Union that has pumped some £8.2 billion into the Scottish economy to keep businesses and services running.
So call me indy-curious if you like. Until I hear a convincing plan for breaking up the UK that won’t risk shattering economic prosperity for a generation, I’ll always be curious about what the point of separation really is.