“You unionists think that we’re too wee, too poor and too stupid.” That is the stereotypical retort from the SNP to anyone who accuses them of economic illiteracy. It is deliberately aimed at stirring up the grudge and grievance syndrome which nationalists use to traduce those who oppose independence. For the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, it is a constant refrain. He usually couples it with a remark about the economic success of other small countries like Ireland and Denmark, emphasizing how prosperous an independent Scotland could be once we rejoined the EU. 

Blackford, Sturgeon and other SNP spokespersons deliberately fail to remind Scottish voters that to join the EU and the Eurozone, a country must meet stringent economic convergence criteria, not least of which is to have a deficit of less than 3%.  Scotland’s current deficit is 8.4%, by far the highest in Europe. Scotland would also have to launch its own currency and set up its own Central Bank, which would take years to attain credibility in international markets and would cost around £60 billion. With the collapse in oil revenues and the biggest recession we’ve ever faced looming because of Covid-19, it is a mystery where the SNP has planted its money tree! An independent Scotland would have to cut the public sector to the bone, slashing thousands of jobs. They would have to impose eye-watering levels of taxation. 

But the harsh economic facts are anathema to the SNP. The truth must never be allowed to get in the way of their separatist spin. They have to convince people that Scotland is hard done by. The English stole our oil. They have short-changed us during the coronavirus pandemic. The £3.2 billion poured into Scotland to cover grants, loans and furlough payments wasn’t enough. If only we were independent and had our own borrowing powers, we could have done better. But who would have lent an independent Scotland the money? Only the security and international standing of the Bank of England as the lender of last resort has enabled the Exchequer to borrow the finance affordably and share it across the UK. 

Scotland does 63% of its trade with England and the rest of the UK. We live in a single market, where we share the same language, the same history and the same values. We can move freely and work in any part of the United Kingdom. For more than three centuries we have enjoyed these benefits. In the early 80s, thanks largely to North Sea oil, we were net contributors to the UK budget, triggering wails of anguish from the SNP, about Scotland’s oil. But for years now we have been net benefactors from the UK Treasury, with fiscal transfers from the Exchequer benefiting Scots by almost £2,000 per person more than in England. Much of that financial support comes from the prosperous South East of England.London has 27% of the UK population, but accounts for 40% of UK economic activity! Londoners hardly bat an eyelid at the distribution of their taxes to all parts of the UK and in particular to Scotland. Yet the SNP has built a narrative of resentment against London. They constantly complain that London’s prosperity has been gained at Scotland’s expense. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of Scots working in London and their taxes, together with the taxes of all Londoners, account for our higher than average fiscal transfer via the Barnet formula.

We live in an interdependent, integrated world and we need to cooperate and share. Adam Smith talked about the circle of empathy and we need to return to these values of cooperation, sharing and empathy. Like the NHS, need rather than nationality is the basis of our health care system and the cost is shared across the whole of the UK. Scotland has a high proportion of pensioners, but the whole of the UK shares the cost. London has a high rate of housing benefits, but we share the cost across the UK. Wales has a high proportion of people with disabilities and we share the responsibility of supporting them across the UK. The nationalists want to break up our country. They want to end the sharing, the cooperation and the empathy. 

A lunatic fringe of xenophobic nationalists have shown during the Covid crisis how the open border with England can be turned into a symbol of division for political ends. By congregating at the border, carefully disguised in hazmat suits telling the English to go away, they display the bigotry that underpins all nationalist movements. At a time when the Scottish tourist trade needs every penny it can get, this was anti-English prejudice at its worst, sadly encouraged by Nicola Sturgeon’s foolish threats to close the border during the height of the pandemic. 

It is a frustrating paradox that opinion polls continue to show a rise in support for the SNP, apparently based on public perception that somehow Scotland has fared better in its handling of the coronavirus than England. The SNP feed into this misconception unfailingly. Ian Blackford said recently on TV: "The leadership that has been shown by our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in sharp contrast with the bluster we have seen from Boris Johnson." Blackford’s own bluster was exposed when the BBC’s Nick Robinson asked him why, in that case, was Scotland’s Covid-19 death rate 30 times higher than it was in Norway. In fact, Scotland has the third worst death rate from the virus in Europe.

So, the perception that the SNP have performed well is a myth. They have been in power now at Holyrood for more than 13 years and Scotland has been left with a nationalist legacy of mothballed hospitals, rusting ferries,  a moribund airport and an education system that is failing our children. Their sole focus is and always will be the breaking up of the United Kingdom. That is why they feed the grievance mill on a daily basis and neglect the real issues that matter, such as education, health, jobs and economic growth.

George Orwell said: “Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception”. We live in Orwellian times.