Unionist myth No.2: Scotland can’t afford to go it alone

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…

I was going to call this post ‘Scotland is a wealthy country’ but if you watch the BBC, read The Telegraph or pretty much any mainstream news media then you wouldn’t believe me.  Unless of course you saw this story, How black gold was hijacked: North sea oil and the betrayal of Scotland, first published in The Independent on 9th December 2005.

For Scotland, the torpor which still affects our perception of our own economic worth began long before the reign of Margaret, The Iron Lady.  In the few short years up to 1974, the number of coal mines in Scotland fell by a third and steel production was down by a fifth.

Perhaps, like other people in the UK, I thought that after the launch of an illegal war, I’d grown immune to being surprised by the lengths to which the Labour government in Westminster would go to twist the truth but reading this article reduced me to tears.  Forced by the law to release a report a previous Labour government had tried to bury, there was no reporting that I could find in other newspapers.  When I showed my English work colleagues, they were shocked.  They too saw that this was blatantly a work of deception.

If I can point to a single moment at which I gave up any notions of continuing to support ‘Britain’ and political union, it was this.  I’d never felt ‘British’.  I’d never had a moment where I looked at the Union flag and thought, ‘That’s mine’.  If I’d been asked what I thought I was, it was always ‘Scottish’ or ‘European’ or at a push, for instance, when completing an ethnicity questionnaire on starting a new job, ‘White-Scottish’ (though given my family’s ancestry on my mother’s father’s side of the family, white supremacists would surely never recognise me as such).

I suggest that you read the report.  It’s only nineteen pages long.  Remember as you read that the report was written in 1975.  The North Sea was producing much less oil and gas than it does now.  Also remember that though the stock of oil will not last forever, it will increase in value.  In 1975, oil was trading at a much lower value than it does now.

In 2007, real production revenues for Scotland looked like this:

Figures based on research by Professor Alexander G. Kemp and Linda Stephens, University of Aberdeen, 2008

These figures were published in ‘The Hypothetical Scottish Shares of Revenues and Expenditures from the UK Continental Shelf 2000 – 2013’, first published June 2008 (from which I’ve taken this graph).  The report is available as a PDF download on The Scottish Parliament website from here.  What these figures show is that despite there being up to twice the reserves reported by oil companies, the minimum sums estimated in 2013 will be £15bn.  (The tax revenues that will be derived from these sums will be affected as George Osborne’s budget of 21 March 2012 has had to include measures to offset the damage his budgetary smash-and-grab for cash did to the oil industry in 2011).

Norway has used their oil to fund a pension pot worth £70k per person along with other social investments.  We can only guess at how the wealth generated by Scotland’s oil has been squandered.  Nuclear weapons cost a lot more than the quoted £300m I’ve seen bandied about online.  The provisional estimate is £3bn alone.  How much did the illegal war in Iraq cost?

How then do unionists maintain the myth that Scotland can never afford to go it alone even if we had oil revenue?  Easy.

The UK Treasury splits the British Isles into five states: England, Northern Island, Scotland, Wales and Extra-Regio Territories (aka The North Sea oilfields).  Have a look at the latest GERS (Government Expenditure and Review (Scotland) report for the period 2010-11.  Scotland is a net contributor to UK finances despite the oil revenues being calculated separately (which is to say not included in Scotland’s figures).

For a fuller explanation of how the GERS figures were manipulated by GERS compilers prior to the 2006 report, see this page.

The person behind that quote at the start of this post was Josef Goebbels.  It seemed appropriate at this point to furbish readers with the full quote:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”