BY EFFIE DEANS
There is always going to be a problem with the predictability of the future. I think it is for this reason that the SNP can essentially say what it likes about Scottish independence. It will give us each an extra £500 pounds assuming we don’t have to join the Euro. It will give us free travel throughout the former UK and the EU assuming there are no international borders. It will make us rich even though exactly the same firms and workers will be in Scotland as before only they will make greater profits and have bigger salaries because we no longer send MPs to Westminster.
Those who want independence anyway for emotional reasons, hatred of Tories and because they are Scottish and not British, will believe anything about the future, because after all the future is uncertain. But the present is different. We can be quite sure of the present.
But that means that it is no longer necessary to argue rather abstractly that if the SNP ever was granted and won a second independence referendum, or if it won a de facto referendum/General Election or if it unilaterally declared independence that this would make Scots poorer. We don’t have to rely on making predictions about things that are at most a long way in the future. Instead, we need merely point out that the Scottish Government wants to make us poorer now.
Some time ago the SNP made us pay 50p per unit of alcohol. But despite some worries at the time, it turned out to make little difference unless you wanted to drink ultra strong cheap cider. A can of beer might be 2 and bit units, which means that while it cost £1.50 before, but it still cost around £1.50. Only if your can was 12% would it cost substantially more. The same goes for wine and spirits. So long as you weren’t buying something ultra cheap and strong, you hardly noticed minimum pricing.
But now the SNP wants us to pay 80p per unit and not only that it wants us to pay 20p on top for the pleasure of having to take the bottle back. But that means the can of beer will cost an extra 30p per unit, which takes it to around £2.20 or £2.30. The extra 20p will take it to £2.50. So, a pack of four beers that already looks expensive at £6 will cost £10.
The weekly shopping basket at Tesco which has already been getting so expensive for ordinary Scots who drink regularly but not excessively, will suddenly because of the dear SNP and its Green friends cost an extra £40 or £50 each week. You don’t need to buy many packs of lager for your husband or bottles of prosecco or heaven forbid a bottle of whisky to find yourself checking your bank account to see if you can afford it.
People like drinking alcohol. I can remember when going to the pub and smoking cigarettes was a normal part of Scottish life. But drinks in a pub are already too expensive for many of us and you would need to be either a millionaire or unemployed to be able to afford fags.
Well Scots are not suddenly going to give up drinking. We will buy it on Amazon or else we will drive to Carlisle if we live near enough and put enough bottles in the back seat to last a year. Or people will find other ways to smuggle unless the SNP puts border controls between Gretna and the Solway Firth. Not that there would be any border controls after independence, just before it.
Electricity has been exceptionally expensive this year so much so that some of us have preferred wearing extra layers to putting the heating on. But a gas boiler is massively cheaper than a heat pump.
Scottish houses even reasonably new ones are usually a bit draughty and don’t have Scandinavian levels of insulation. Our weather is cold and damp and windy and gets through the walls. The result is that if I spend up to £15,000 for a heat pump, my house will be colder, and it will still cost me a huge amount to run the heat pump. So, I could spend another huge amount trying to add extra insulation to the walls. I can upgrade the double glazing and the doors and most likely still shiver in my tepid bath while wondering is that it as I touch the lukewarm radiators, while reflecting how much being colder has cost?
Worse still let’s say I get a new job, or I want to downsize, or I inherit a property. Before being able to sell a house the Scottish Government wants to force me to reach an arbitrary energy rating which in many cases will require me to spend £15,000 pounds for the heat pump and whatever cost for the insulation. In some cases that could be £30,000.
But many older Scottish homes are simply unsuitable for heat pumps given the present technology making them unsellable. Many Scots would struggle to afford the cost of adding the heat pump plus new insulation. So, who would pay? Would it be added to the price of the house, or would homeowners be expected to take the hit? In the former case it would make buying a home still more unaffordable for young couples, in the latter it would bring misery to pensioners trying to sell a home to afford care.
There is no need to predict that Scottish independence would make us poorer, because we know that the Scottish Government if it gets its way wants to make us poorer beforehand.
Scotland contributes almost nothing to climate change and if there is global warming, we experience little of it here. But we still have enough people who vote to make themselves poorer because they hate Tories and long to ditch their British passport for a Scottish one. You may get a warm glow when you pass border controls at Carlisle, but you won’t be able to eat your passport with a thistle on it any more than you will be able to eat thistles.
Perhaps when Scottish nationalists find themselves unable to pay their grocery bill and unable to sell their house because they can’t afford to buy a heat pump, they will realise that if the SNP and friends make you poorer now, it would certainly make you poorer still if it ever won independence.
It’s all very well looking at thistles, but only a drunk man or a Scottish nationalist would try to eat one.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.