With global leaders warning of tough times ahead, Humza Yousaf needs to face reality, says TERRY MURDEN
Once again the SNP conference will hear that only through independence can Scotland tackle the cost of living crisis, grow the economy and cure the country of all known diseases. Well, maybe they won’t go so far as the last one, but it’s nailed on that splitting up the UK will be paraded as the promised land, even after the party’s recent implosion and warnings from global leaders that things ain’t going to improve any time soon.
If party leader Humza Yousaf is to win back support from an increasingly sceptical electorate he has to put a stop to claims that the country just has to be released from its Westminster chains in order to spark an economic miracle. A new cross-border policy built around mutual benefit is badly needed and must replace the blame game and insults that currently pass for intelligent political debate.
It’s not likely to happen any time soon, with Mr Yousaf and Westminster leader Stephen Flynn once again leading the troops up the independence hill with no clear idea how to get there or what awaits them.
The tartan idealists who seem to live in a parallel universe need to start listening to warnings from political and business leaders that it’s tough out there, and likely to get tougher. The conflict in Israel and Gaza together with the war in Ukraine, have the potential to force up energy and food prices just as we thought they were coming down. Inflation, which was also showing signs of being tamed, could fire up again, and interest rates will remain at their current level for the foreseeable future.
In a blunt assessment of the months ahead, JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon says: “This may be the most dangerous time the world has seen in decades”.
The chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has been sharing the gloomy prognosis with the Bank of England’s notoriously downbeat governor Andrew Bailey. Mr Hunt has already said that he will need to take “difficult decisions” in next month’s autumn statement after a sharp worsening of the public finances over the past six months.
With his backbenchers threatening to vote down any tax rises, he has indicated that spending may have to be cut further. Interest rate projections for all economies have gone up, says Mr Hunt, and for the UK this amounts to £20bn-30bn in debt charges.
Of course, if it was an independent nation, Scotland would not be troubled by any of this because the SNP has a vault full of magic potion ready to sprinkle on the economy as soon as Mr Hunt and his chums step aside.
The politics of division were a theme of Baroness Davidson’s address to the Scottish Property Federation dinner in Edinburgh in which she spoke of the public being tired of the ‘ever louder shouting” about Brexit and independence. She went on to call for a consensus around the big picture stuff, such as housing and tackling inflation and credited Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party conference speech as ‘making sense’.
Those in the SNP who prefer to swallow reality pills to drinking fantasy juice will understand the challenges facing Scotland are no different to those afflicting other territories.
How refreshing it would be if some of the party’s leaders accepted the need to work with the UK government instead of against it in order to help build bridges, rather remain stubbornly committed to knocking them down.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business