I have seen much to admire about the case being made by “Yes Scotland” for standing on your own feet; but I have been equally frustrated by some of the notions it puts forward which are, frankly, utter fantasy. Most obvious among those is that Scotland, with its geographic location and oil, could turn itself magically into a wealthy Nordic country like Norway.
There are two prime reasons. First, as I have written many times before on this blog, the “left” has funny ideas about Scandinavia, with its huge private-sector public service provision (even the ambulances are privatised in Denmark), negotiated wage settlements (with no minimum wage) and utterly different housing system (often more cramped in practice).
Second, Scotland just isn’t Nordic – culturally, politically or financially. It doesn’t have the basic Lutheran ethos which underpins the Nordic social settlement; it doesn’t have the consensus politics; and it has vastly lower taxes and thus lower public spending.
The last of these is the most relevant. For three years if not seven, the SNP has had the ability to put up income tax by three points, at least to nudge in closer to Norway’s taxation levels (currently close to double Scotland’s). Has it done so? On the contrary, it intends to reduce taxes after independence – a tax race to the bottom much more American than Scandinavian!
In fact, an “independent” Scotland dominated by the Finance and Oil Sectors with its monetary policy set in London would inevitably shift away from the Nordic Model.
This is another example of the stark lack of honesty in the debate (not that that dishonesty is all one-sided to be clear). Somehow, Scotland is to reduce taxes to become more like countries with vastly higher taxes? It’s a fantasy, pure and simple.