Scottish ‘independence’ won’t be real independence. So why bother?

The SNP’s plans for a post-referendum Scotland promise no real changes to anything. So why bother with the whole charade at all?

Tomorrow is the SNP's big day. The party will be unveiling its White Paper, a very long document that it hopes will turn its campaign around. However from what I know of it already I have a feeling it won't do it for me.

I listened to Nicola Sturgeon talk last Friday and it seems pretty clear that what the SNP thinks it wants from independence is something pretty much the same as we have now, just with a bit more welfare and anti-rich rhetoric chucked in.

She wants to keep the union of the crown. She wants to stay in the EU. And she wants to keep the currency union. She just wants to break the current parliamentary union so that the SNP can fiddle with taxes and spending. But even within that, she keeps promising not much in the way of change.

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A bemusing amount of the conversation about independence focuses on pensions (a micro problem in what should be a super-macro decision) and she keeps telling us there will be no change here. Everyone will keep on getting what they get. Or perhaps more (the SNP plans to use the money tree hidden under Holyrood to reverse all the recent minor cuts to benefits).

I find all this very odd - if you aren't going to change much, why bother? If you want to stick with almost all the bits of the union that already exist (and in particular the currency union) you aren't asking for actual independence. You are asking for a semblance of independence with the protection of someone else's central bank. Which seems a bit silly really.

Someone in the audience at the ICAS conference on the matter on Friday asked Sturgeon what radical policies she had up her sleeve that might actually make the difference. I suspect he was hoping for some talk about the rolling back of the state or some such (ha!).

Instead, Sturgeon announced that an independent Scotland would be anti-child poverty and anti-inequality. This is hopeless stuff. Everyone is anti-child poverty. Everyone. Never have I heard a politician or anyone else for that matter say that they were pro-child poverty and that their policies were generally aimed at producing a shoeless underclass which would suffer permanently from mild malnutrition. That's because no one is pro-child poverty.

All arguments on the matter are about the method by which one should make it go away rather than about the good or bad of its existence. I'd vote yes in the referendum if it meant real independence and came with a guarantee of real and radical change. But it doesn't and based on the idiocy I've heard so far, it won't. *

*Note that even if the SNP suddenly figured this out it, wouldn't necessarily make any difference. The party claims that independence would be all sorted 18 months after the referendum. But that seems a tall order given that the SNP plans are based on the English just doing what the SNP wants. That might not happen (so far no one has asked the English if they fancy being in a currency union with Scotland surely that needs a southern referendum?) and there is a Scottish election on 5 May 2016. Who says the SNP will win that one?

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.