Taken from the Herald 2006-01-30 Independence cover-up we would be rich
Whitehall knew in the 1970s that Scots could have been nearly one-third better-off than the English within a few years of splitting from the UK, although the knowledge was kept from the public. The fear that devolution could lead to independence even led to the Labour government of the day holding a devolution summit, at which the chancellor, Denis Healey, headed an attempted revolt in trying to put the brakes on Scottish home rule plans.
A bleak Treasury assessment warned that just the perception that Scotland could be about to move from devolution to independence and take control of oil revenues would plunge the UK into economic crisis.
The prospects for the economy of the rest of the UK were described as “grim” while those for Scotland were so strong that officials advised ministers they should start to “think the unthinkable”.
At the meeting on June 3, 1975, the chancellor, now Lord Healey, was backed by Roy Jenkins, then home secretary, and Tony Crosland, the environment secretary, but all they won from cabinet was a block on any new public commitments on devolution.
The information comes from confidential Treasury papers written in the mid-1970s and recently released from the Kew records office. In one analysis, it was reckoned that income per head in an independent Scotland could soar by the following decade. A Treasury official, S Scott Whyte, wrote in an internal memo: “It is conceivable that income per head in Scotland could be 25% or 30% higher than that prevailing in England during the 1980s, given independence.”
The fear of losing North Sea oil revenue and exports was because the Treasury needed oil to get Britain out of a chronic trade deficit.
Internal memos even doubted the trustworthiness of their Scottish Office colleagues in working on a response to the independence threat. That point was made only two weeks after the SNP won 30% of the Scottish vote, and secured 11 seats at the October 1974 Westminster election.
The officials’ exchanges later refer to the 1974 memo written by Gavin McCrone, then a senior economist in St Andrew’s House. As disclosed in The Herald last year, it showed the economic case for Scottish independence was much stronger than government publicly admitted then or since.
For Peter Mountfield, a Treasury official, the prospects for the UK without Scotland looked bleak: “The Scots have really got us over a barrel here … An independent Scotland can go it alone, provided there is not a disastrous collapse in the world oil price. The prospects for a separate English, Welsh and Ulster economy on the same assumption must look pretty grim. Perhaps we should all start to think the unthinkable”.
Kenny MacAskill, the SNP MSP, said of the revelations: “We’ve been robbed of billions. Every Scottish man, woman and child should be considerably better-off and could have been since the 1970s. Gordon Brown [the chancellor] wants us to rally to the Union flag, but this 25-30% gap is the price for being British. “The bad news is that each of us is 25-30% poorer. The good news is that we’ve still got 30 to 40 years of oil, and we can’t allow the sins of the past 30 years to carry on.” (Martin Frost)
6 replies on “A Treasury official said, “the prospects for the UK without Scotland look bleak. The Scots really have got us over a barrel. An independent Scotland can go it alone. But the prospects for a separate English, Welsh and Ulster economy on the same assumption must look pretty grim. Perhaps we should all start to think the unthinkable”.”
The UK has a track record of wasting huge one-off amounts of money. The UK received 50% of all Marshall Aid after WW2 ($57 billion in todays money). West Germany received the next highest amount. Germany used this on productive investment in their economy. The UK didn’t and also maintained a huge amount of spending on the military, refusing to accept the realities of it’s reduced position in the world. By the late 1960’s West Germanys GNP per capita was bigger than the UK ‘s.
In the 1980’s, oil generated around £18 billion each year (todays value). ‘Despite this the UK’s former Secretary of State for the Environment (and later Defence) Michael Heseltine said recently, Britain under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “squandered the windfall” on short-term consumerist policies’. No economic restructuring or the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the UK then.
In the 10 years Thatcher was PM, privatisations of houses and companies added about £60 billion by 1990. A lot more has been sold off since then. Yet by 2000, the UK went into a decade of austerity.
The squandering of North Sea oil revenue wasn’t a one-off. It’s how the UK operates its backward looking fantasyland and as Brexit clearly shows, this view is alive and well. It does clarify one thing though, if the UK can’t get it’s act together with such repeated massive injections of money, it never will. The decline of the UK is simply inevitable. With Scotland as part of the UK, that decline will only be marginally slowed down. But freed of the fossilised UK view of the world, an independent Scotland would simply become as wealthy as all our Northern European neighbours are and have been for decades when compared with the UK.
Getting away from the economic drag of being in the UK is the main reason for independence. Decline or prosper? It’s that simple.
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Excellent analysis Ian. And for England’s eternal benefit there is Scotland’s renewable energy which is as yet untapped. Bigger than oil!! I note England is setting up power distribution power outlets in readiness for selling electricity to Europe. That is Scotland’s electricity loaded onto the National grid, providing an excess which is sold to Europe benefitting England
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Yip, replace the word oil with energy and it could end up the same story again. Privatisation also hasn’t run it’s course in the UK yet either, with the NHS maybe being the last thing left to sell and which can only be privatised by stealth. Use the logo but otherwise it’ll all be private except for a very run down A&E service.
Meanwhile the SNP are acting as if while they stop doing anything, everything else stops as well. Wait another 2/3/5/10 years – sure no problem. Then we’ll go for indy! Meanwhile the UK will have continued to go further down the economic plughole, making recovering from it that much harder for an independent Scotland. If you’re in a hole, it’s always best to get out of it sooner than later.
The only way I can see progress on independence being made is to concentrate on the economics of the UK and an independent Scotland. The lie that England subsidises Scotland is virtually all the UK’ers have as their argument against independence, as is seen by it being endlessly spouted by them and all based on lies. The underlying lies are exposed by the fact that England isn’t pushing to be independent because those in power know that without Scotland, England’s century long rate of decline will simply increase. They cover that fact with their big lie that it’s Scotland that’s too poor to be independent. I read that if a big lie is told often enough, many people will end up believing it. The unionist’s are certainly playing that ploy for all it’s worth.
The economic argument is the heart of why Scotland should be independent and the facts that support why that is the only way that Scotland can achieve it’s latent potential, need to be the focus of most discussions on independence. The SNP have had far too easy a time of it since 2015. Their meek acceptance of the GERS figures have been an open goal for the unionists. If support for independence can be raised by highlighting some economic home truths about independence and it’s flipside, staying in the UK, then that pressure may help get those in political positions to do their job or be voted out. GRA? – WTF! The SNP have cruised off the back of the pre 2014 SNP and general support for independence, not for anything that they’ve done since 2015 Their ‘there is no alternative to us’ attitude needs to be called out. Time is the very last thing Scotland has right now.
Others, who look at facts can see the realties of Scotland and the UK. With some widespread economic truths and capable politicians, independence is there for the taking.
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SCOTLAND is always Exploited for its Finances and Resources, right now there is a offshore Wind Farm being built in the Forth, wich will not light a Bulb in Scotland as all the Power is going to England. The other proposed Offshore Wind Farm is being built in the Forth Mouth in the North Sea, claiming it to be English waters as the Moved the Sea Boundary at Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1999.They are calling it the Berwick Bank offshore wind Farm,this is a Breach of International law, they are using this breach,to steal Scottish Oil Wells and are now using the same Theft to build the Berwick Bank offshore wind Farm!.This has never been a Fair and Equil Trading Union, it Benifits England not Scotland, Time to leave the British Empire Mentality to its own Fate!!!.