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Scottish Independence: Weighing up the Economics by [McCrone, Gavin, Linklater, Magnus]
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Scottish Independence: Weighing up the Economics Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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About the Author

Gavin McCrone has studied, written and lectured about the Scottish economy over a period of many years. For over two decades he was Chief Economic Adviser to successive Secretaries of State for Scotland. He was successively head of two Scottish Government Departments - the Industry Department for Scotland and the Scottish Development Department.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 843 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E2581KA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #230,271 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Gavin McCrone was for 20 years Chief Economic Adviser to Secretaries of State for Scotland. He is now Professor of Economics at Edinburgh University Business School. He writes, “This is not a book beholden to either the independence or the ‘Better Together’ campaigns; its purpose has been to set out the issues for both independence and a greater degree of devolution so that people can better understand what would be involved before voting.”

Scotland’s output per head has recently improved compared to Britain as a whole. Its public spending per head has been above the British average since at least the 1960s. The Scottish government’s figure is 14 per cent more in 2011-12 for identifiable spending only (that is, excluding defence, national debt interest and international services). Scotland’s revenues roughly equal its population share of Britain. All this produced a Scottish deficit of 5 per cent in 2011-12, which is unsustainable (even including a geographical share of North Sea revenues).

North Sea oil production peaked in 1999, gas in 2000: both are now at less than half their peaks. North Sea revenues were £6.5 billion in 2009-10, £8.8 billion in 2010-11, £11.3 billion in 2011-12, and £6.5 billion in 2012-13. The GDP from oil and gas includes profits going to foreign oil companies.

He notes, “Oil & Gas UK announced in April 2013 that production is expected to increase to some 2 billion barrels of oil equivalent compared with 1.5 billion in 2013. This follows a big increase in investment by the oil companies, notably BP in its Claire Ridge project, a major field that should be in production until 2050. Nevertheless, over the long term, the decline in output of both oil and gas is expected to continue at a gradual rate, despite these developments.
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I felt I needed to understand the issues more surrounding Scottish Independence before the referendum and so I downloaded this book. Gavin McCrone has written an excellent, thought-provoking book. He sets out both sides of the argument and it is clear when he expresses his own personal view. As the former Chief Economist in the Scottish Office, he has a depth of information and gives in an insight into how things have changed since the 1970's.

This book is not just about the referendum. He usefully highlights what could happen if there is not a vote in favour of independence. He explains the terms Devo-Max and Devo-Plus and what their implications for Scotland would be; for example - "Devo-Max offers the opportunity for greater independence in economic policy but would probably provoke major resistance from other parts of the UK....like indendepence, it would end the social pact with the rest of the UK. whereby there is a pooling of resources to achieve equality of social provision".

As much of the independence debate revolves around North Sea Oil, he discusses it in some depth. It is interesting to know that there is no clear accepted division of these oilfields with the different parts of the UK. He discusses the various possible solutions but recognises that in the end it will be down for negotiation.

He covers Scottish financial expenditure and possible future tax policy. He highlights that Scotland would have "serious difficulty in funding its above-average level of public expenditure" unless it gets sufficient share of the North Sea oil fields. He highlights that if "personal taxation was different from the rest of the UK, there would be a risk that some people would vote with their feet and move either to or from Scotland".
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This review is of the 2nd edition of the book, published in early 2014, but late enough to include mention of George Osborne’s intervention speech in Edinburgh.

During the past 6 months I have read a fair amount in the media and another book on the topic of the referendum on Scottish Independence (Arguing for Independence by Stephen Maxwell); in addition, I have thumbed through and read sections of the Scottish Government’s White Paper, ‘Scotland’s Future;’ which incidentally, you can obtain for free online or by writing in to request a hard copy from the Scottish government.

Unlike some books on the subject, McCrone claims to present an unbiased assessment of the pros and cons of Scottish Independence viewed through the lens of an economist. McCrone’s credentials for this task are excellent, since he spent a large part of his career as a civil servant in Whitehall briefing on economic issues concerning Scotland, followed by an academic career as a Professor of Economics at Glasgow University and more recently at Edinburgh University’s Business School.

Also, whatever McCrone’s personal politics, I should not pay too much heed to reviews that claim he is a mouthpiece for Westminster and/or Whitehall Conservative interests keen to push the Better Together Agenda. This certainly does not come out in his writings, either in this book or in other articles I have read by McCrone in the past few years on this issue. The conspiracy theory about the ‘secret’ McCrone report back in the 1970s does not hold water, since this was an internal government briefing paper (which are often confidential) and as he himself points out in this book, at the time he was acting as Chief Economic Advisor to the Scottish Office and was duty bound to keep it confidential.
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