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What follows is not a definitive view of the state of the world, economic policymaking, perceived political wisdoms or the case for Scottish independence. It is an attempt to challenge some of the accepted ‘narratives’ of the current policy debate. It is written from the perspective of an expat (economic migrant), Scottish economist who has been based in Asia for most of the last 27 years. It is meant to be food for thought for key players on the independence side of the debate in Scotland.

The danger at hand

One of the worrying aspects of Scottish politics post the Independence Referendum in 2014 has been the polarisation of economic policy thought. The SNP has set itself out as a “progressive” party which opposes austerity and supports a largely leftof- centre agenda on economic and social questions. In itself, there is nothing wrong with such an approach and I have sympathy and support for many of the views held (not least the cancellation of Trident) but there are, in my view, two inherent problems with this position: 1) it unnecessarily antagonises a large section of potential independence supporters and 2) it fails to take into account the real challenges facing developed country governments in the near future.

The leftward impetus has been given even greater force by the June 2017 General Election result. Significant slices of Scotland’s rural areas have returned to Tory hands not because they are convinced of Tory policies (they were mostly shielded from what these policies would entail by a complicit media and a poorly-judged SNP election campaign) but because they are NOT convinced that the SNP actually speaks for them. This is the danger of the ‘progressive’ platform that the party has embraced, which includes an almost unquestioning commitment to the European Union.

There is now a large and growing (because the SNP has won in these areas) call for even more left-leaning policies to be adopted in the run-up to IndyRef2. This could prove disastrous to the independence cause for the same reasons that unthinking admiration of the Irish Tiger and the rise of Iceland as a financial centre helped sink the first vote after both crashed for entirely predictable reasons.

The SNP has the opportunity to become a party, perhaps the only one in the UK that tells the electorate the truth. It is certainly not doing so just now. It could become a political movement that recognises that the future of an ageing European economy is fraught with dangers but that there are also inspiring solutions that can only be implemented if capital and labour work together hand-in-hand. The politics of envy and greed – the traditional, mythical left/ right battle of two opposing forces in the economy – needs to be entirely rethought not just in the Scottish context but around Europe and the developed world. Why?

The SNP has the opportunity to become a party, perhaps the only one in the UK that tells the electorate the truth

Populism and policy

It is important to understand some of the recent developments in Western politics, not least the Scottish referendum, the EU referendum and the last US presidential election. All of these surprise results (the Scottish referendum outcome was a surprise even though the case was lost – the margin closed from 44pts when the campaign started in 2013 to 10pts on the day of the vote, a huge shock to the British Establishment) took place against the backdrop of an increasingly angry and disaffected electorate in Western countries. The election of Syriza in Greece, the domination of two non-establishment parties, the Front National and En Marché, in the French presidential election and the Freedom Party’s surge in the Netherlands. They are all part of the same phenomenon.

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