Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday 5 March 2014

'Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!'

It seems that optimism reigns supreme north of the Border, where Alex Salmond has apparently claimed that an independent Scotland would be an 'economic powerhouse':
The First Minister said Scotland would rebalance the “economic centre of gravity of these islands” by becoming a “Northern light” that would act as a counterpoint to London’s “dark star”.
Since, according to the Telegraph, experts have warned that the fledgling state would start life deep in the red and that he has massively overestimated oil revenues, you have to wonder where he is getting his figures.

Oddly enough, I have something in the archives from last year that might give some indication of what happens when politics and mathematics collide...


According to a decidedly excitable headline today at the Scottish Daily Record:
Margaret Thatcher snatched £130bn of Scottish wealth as she axed 250,000 of our jobs
Mrs Thatcher, it proclaims, 'reaped a massive Scottish tax windfall' and 'squandered North Sea oil cash on her destructive policies', which, I think, roughly translates as "Let's all share a highly enjoyable outburst of righteous indignation".

Having obligingly done so, the readers will have probably gone off the boil rather by the time they reach the explanation that:
Extra Scottish revenues handed to the UK Treasury during the Iron Lady’s 1980s heyday would be worth a staggering £130billion at today’s prices.
So the figure has been adjusted. Never mind the intervening quarter of a century and the misleading 'as' suggesting contemporaneous events; what matters is that the journalist has an attention-grabbing figure to crown a collection of loaded phrases straight out of the rabble-rouser's handbook.

But wait a minute; what's this?
Finance Secretary John Swinney claimed the figures proved that Scotland’s oil wealth had been wasted by the Thatcher government. 
He said: “The additional revenue paid by Scotland totalled £130billion during the 1980s – or an average of £2541 per person each and every year."
So which is it? £130 billion then or now? Oil revenues are a complicated question at the best of times but understanding can hardly be helped by such apparent political sleight-of-hand.

When it comes to political speeches, most people don't listen out for the metaphorical small print; they just join in when they like the tune. Look at the crowds of under-30s out on the streets celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher and you'll see exactly what I mean.

We've become so accustomed to misdirection from our political masters on both sides of the border that
 it hardly seem worth remarking these days, but a combination of disinformation and opportunistic demagoguery cannot but harm the democratic process.

The Scottish people deserve better than this.


  1. "The Scottish people deserve better than this."

    I agree, they do. Will they get it though? I doubt it.

  2. Maybe an outboard motor could be attached to the back of Scotland and they can pootle off into the sunset.


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