A week of gifts for Unionists

At the start of the week Business for Scotland, the group that focus on the economic case for independence, started a fundraising drive – leaving few in doubt over indyref2’s inevitability.
There has been little effort from the SNP to counter this speculation, and with their party conference on the horizon (17-18 March), expectations are building towards a major announcement.
Optimism in the Yes camp is evident, and recent polls have shown tentative signs of an increase in support for independence. With the unionists yet to organise, momentum seems to be favouring the nationalists. However, looking at this week’s news there is a raft of positive news for those seeking to keep Scotland in the UK.
The Scottish Government was forced into an embarrassing climb-down on business rates, now agreeing to cap increases in certain sectors and areas to 12.5% for a year. The rate row has done no favours for the SNP’s economic credentials, and has cemented opposition to the Scottish Government in many parts of the business community.
With the Yes camp looking to fight the economic case for independence along pro-business, pro-trade lines, this is a worrying setback. Rather than alienating SMEs, nationalists desperately need converts in this group, especially as they can expect to receive virtually no support from larger corporations.
On Thursday, the Scottish Budget was finalised, keeping the threshold for the 40p higher rate frozen at £43,000 for Scots, whilst it rises to £45,000 in the rest of the UK.
Whilst it will not affect the majority of Scottish taxpayers, it will provide ammunition to the Conservatives to paint a future independent Scotland as an uncompetitive, highly taxed economy. An argument that will likely resonate with many middle income families, another demographic the Yes camp struggled to win over previously.
News out of London towards the latter end of the week should further dampen the nationalist mood. The BBC announced a new TV channel for Scotland, along with a Scottish news hour at 9pm, creating 80 new journalist positions.
As Scotland experiences a period of substantial investment in home-grown content, allegations of BBC bias – a favourite pastime of hard-line nationalists – may struggle to gain traction beyond their echo chamber.
The week drew to a close with an announcement from the Ministry of Defence, that the British Government was committed to investing £1.7bn in upgrading Scottish military bases.
The new jobs likely to stem from this investment will place pressure on any independence movement to commit to matching this spending, or risk losing support in the Clyde area.
However, as Trident is the main rationale for a large slice of the spending, this will present internal challenges for the nationalists. With many elements of the Yes umbrella openly hostile to the military in general, commitments to match spending may seem hollow.
Unionists will waste little time in arguing that independence means lost investment and fewer jobs, and the MoD have just handed them a perfect example.
No matter what happens in the next few weeks, polling day for a second referendum will be quite some time away. There will be a long and more hostile debate ahead, with many of the same questions as in 2014.
If Scotland is to favour independence this time around, there remains a lot of people to be convinced. This week has made that task a little harder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s