The Fringe, Sturgeon and GERS

There’s so much going on in the world – tomorrow’s price cap is the big thing but I managed to sneak off for a day in Edinburgh this week for a bit of open-minded comedy from the fringe including Nichola Sturgeon – has my mind been changed on the topic of Scottish Independence? Read on to find out…

This week I took the train down to Edinburgh to the Fringe and to see few shows including Stewart Lee  and Simon Munnery  and Vladimir McTavish  who were all great.
This wasn’t my first trip across the firth of Forth this month – t’was my fifth but this one was different as I didn’t have the Lady, the Master and Little Lady in tow. Off the leash – I tried to have as good a time as decently possible before my 18:30 train back north.
I love Edinburgh and the Fringe but there’s an uneasy sense of social decay in the world. Overflowing bins, half-empty shows and paying £9 for chips, cheese and gravy! The world’s gone mad.

Come for the culture, stay for the smells

Over a dozen oysters and a glass of champagne I pondered on how the fringe has become a sort of middle class holiday camp, where gentrification has the less privileged priced out and only the rich can afford to visit and it’s even worse for the performers.

Anyway. I enjoy comedy so I booked a show of an audience with (Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party) Nicola Sturgeon. And it was quite an insightful hour.
I’ve read the news reports of what people said that she said during the show but each seems like they went to a different show from me.
She seemed very normal, thinks before she speaks and tries to balance everything to make Scotland a better place – she’s been in charge for 8 years now and there’s no end in sight for her.
As much as I may joke about not liking Scotland, the SNP or Scottish Independence she came across very well and compared to the incompetent Johnson rule and god knows what’s to come after – she’s doing a very good job.
She’s a believer in Scottish Independence and has been for all of her life it seems – it’s like a religion and no amount of logic could dissuade someone to part from their beliefs. Religion is still virulent in the 21st Century and in Scotland the state religion is “YES” or supporting Scottish Independence.

The Case Against Independence

I would be totally in favour of Scottish Independence or more powers of autonomy for Scotland if it were not for one very simple but serious flaw and that is the calamitous GERS numbers. Which is the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report. This is basically how much tax money is spent by Scotland versus taxes raised and it makes a horrific read. The headline is that Scotland pays much less in tax than it spends. It’s so bad (and getting worse) that the independence newspaper The National wants them abolished to avoid the discomfort of reading. It makes uncomfortable reading because there is no economic case for Scottish independence – so if you don’t agree with something, just close your eyes to it.

GERS – Deficit of £23.7 billion pounds!

You can read the full report here. But it’s not all bad news. The good news for Scotland is that it gets around £2,000 in extra government spending per person per year compared with the rest of the UK and gets to complain about everything Westminster does. That extra money pays for all sorts of pet projects for special groups (GFF isn’t eligible) which have questionable results in creating a better, fairer Scotland.

GFF’s Plan in Case of Independence

After our WFH holiday in Holland, we are back in Scotland and it feels like a very much poorer place than where we went to. If everything is worse, why stick around? It’s a good question and one that we’ve been ruminating over. Maybe we’ll up sticks and move – possibly to Scandinavia or somewhere more liveable.

Moving to Europe would have big implications on our finances and for FIRE. We’d lose our ISA/LISA tax exemption and we’d pay much more in tax – but it’s a trade-off of pay more, get more. I could like with that I think – I’ve run the numbers and it’s acceptable to me.

But for different reasons we might not emigrate just yet.
But if Scotland became Independent it would usher in more tax on rich b*stards like me to Make Scotland Bonnie Again. The quirks of the UK tax system mean that labour is taxed highly, capital is lightly taxed and property is even less so. Those probably do need to change (and I’ve said so myself) but who wants to to pay more tax when the quality of life isn’t getting better?
So, I generally support Nicola but I don’t think that Scottish if Independent would end up being an economic success. There was no talk at all in an hour about how to improve the economy, attract talent, jobs, expertise and improve things – and I left feeling like the supporters of independence (the majority there) lapped it up but I wasn’t convinced and if anything – I’m terrified of the growing myopic movement.
So, another year and another terrible set of books for Scotland. But at least I had a few laughs, a few beers and can say I listened with an open mind (plus at £15 and open wallet).

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