The truth about Sturgeonomics…
HOW are historians likely to remember Sturgeonomics, assuming they do remember it, or indeed its creator?
We’ve heard a lot about Trussonomics, after all, and the First Minister’s denunciation of the super-rich ‘laughing all the way to the bank’.
In Scotland, the super-rich tend to be the quangocrats — who are the only beneficiaries of the separatist regime and its unrelenting commitment to rewarding failure.
As for what Nicola Sturgeon’s own philosophy is, or that of her stand-in Finance Secretary John Swinney, it might be harder to discern, at least at first glance.
But it’s clear that the only growth industry the SNP supports is the manufacture of grievance and division, and public inquiries, which have done their bit to keep the legal profession, or parts of it, in the black.
Economic growth in Scotland has been running at roughly half the rate of the UK’s since 2014, resulting in Nationalist tax-grabs, on the pretext that it is somehow ‘progressive’ to penalise all those fat cats such as headteachers and senior police officers.
Sturgeonomics has created the ultimate postcode lottery, turning Scotland into the highest-taxed part of the UK — and the tax gap is about to widen dramatically.
There’s limited prospect of the Nationalists deciding to change tack and prevent a brain drain of skilled workers — who don’t see the logic in paying more tax for public services which continue to fail.
That’s another hallmark of the Sturgeon economic creed, such as it is — more tax raids with no discernible improvement in education or health; in fact, they’re locked in a downward spiral.
Devolving control of income tax to people you wouldn’t trust with the tea round turned out to be not such a brilliant idea, and now anyone who works for a living is about to pay a steep price for the SNP’s rank incompetence.
It’s worth remembering that one of the practitioners of Sturgeonomics was Derek Mackay, who quit hours before the Scottish Budget in 2020 after it emerged he’d bombarded a teenage boy with inappropriate online messages.
As a minister, Mr Mackay admitted he’d never heard of the Laffer Curve, which dictates that revenues can go up if taxes are cut — luckily Tory MSP Murdo Fraser was on hand to give him a mini-tutorial on the subject.
Mr Mackay’s only other memorable contribution is only now coming to light — his role in the row over the SNP’s failure to deliver two ferries for CalMac’s west coast routes, with costs spiralling from £97million to £250million.
Perhaps the defining moment of the Sturgeon economic project came when the SNP forged a pact with the Marxist Greens.
It did so to shore up its non-existent mandate for another referendum, and possibly to bolster its green credentials in the process.
But the alliance means the SNP’s political survival depends on the backing of student union radicals who are avowedly anti-capitalist and deplore the very notion of economic expansion.
It’s therefore no surprise that Miss Sturgeon believes the Chancellor’s plans are ‘morally repugnant’ as they would allegedly exacerbate inequalities.
Talking of inequalities, life expectancy in Scotland is the lowest in the UK, with deprivation identified as a major factor, and the pupil attainment gap has widened — despite Miss Sturgeon’s flagship pledge to prioritise education.
Yet millions are poured into vanity projects such as overseas ‘embassies’ — and a referendum that won’t happen.
Ministers are fond of pointing out the many supposed perks of living in Scotland, which make the extra tax worthwhile.
They tend to mention baby boxes a lot, and ‘free’ degrees, though some universities have can’t provide accommodation for students, and in any event have had to turn away Scottish applicants due to the SNP’s cap on undergraduate numbers.
‘Free’ prescriptions are fine, but it might not feel quite such a boon when you can’t make an in-person appointment with your GP, or can’t find an NHS dentist — or have to wait 84 hours for treatment at an A&E department.
Many burned-out medics might well consider moving south of the Border to escape punitive taxes, leaving the NHS in more of a mess.
The truth is that the social contract which forms the fig-leaf justification for the SNP’s tax raids is looking more threadbare than ever, but is still regularly wheeled out by desperate ministers.
Others are likely to vote with their feet — Roddy Dunlop, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, has said he’s considering a move south, perhaps to Northumberland, if the tax gap is left as it is.
How many other professionals are thinking the same — and can we afford to lose them, given the relatively small numbers of top earners based here?
Mind you, some of them might be tempted to stay purely on the basis of all those costly public inquiries into the SNP’s avoidable errors — a potential goldmine.
Meanwhile, the bridges with businesses painstakingly built by the SNP under Alex Salmond fell into disrepair and are now on the verge of outright collapse, as a possible hike in business rates looms.
Most worrying of all is the absence of meaningful political debate, or perhaps any debate, about the economy, and any serious interrogation of ministers.
Even the Scottish Tories are reluctant, it seems, to press for tax cuts, focusing instead on calling for the cross-Border tax gap to be addressed, which of course it must be.
Yet tax reduction would turn Scotland into a magnet for investment and for the kind of talented, hard-working staff crucial to kick-starting economic growth — the very workers now planning to leave the country.
Tax cuts figure nowhere in discussion at Holyrood where, as ever, the constitution and the same old tax-and-spend policies reign supreme.
Lower taxes would galvanise growth, with the extra proceeds invested in schools and hospitals.
But it’s a heretical notion for politicians who demanded the latitude to be daring and original in their policy-making, got it, then proceeded to do nothing more radical and mould-breaking than impose tax hikes (and spend more on benefits).
The Scottish parliament under Nationalist rule has become a perpetuator of bad ideas, rather than a catalyst for innovation, with the SNP ploughing its own furrow, to a large extent unchecked and unchallenged.
Opposition parties are gathering strength after many years of negligible progress, and Miss Sturgeon has never appeared so enervated as her independence dream unravels.
But the reality is that for as long as the SNP remains in power, Scotland will be stuck in reverse gear.
Miss Sturgeon can lecture Liz Truss, but she does so against the backdrop of 15 years of failure.
A clueless, directionless party in cahoots with Marxists has presided over an utterly discredited economic strategy — if it be dignified with the name — and for now its solution is to do nothing.
The only consolation is that the final outcome of Sturgeonomics could be the political demise of its creator — and irreversible electoral damage for the SNP.
- This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on September 27, 2022.
- *Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant