McAlpine: An Indy Scotland can liberate England’s Northern economy

Nathanael Williams

Common Weal director suggests an Indy Scotland can help the North seize its potential 

AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND is a chance for the economy of the North of England to be enhanced according to a lecture given today (Friday 26 May) by Robin McAlpine, the director of pro-independence thinktank Common Weal.

In a blog to the Sheffield Political Economic Research Institute, McAlpine addressed the assumption that an Independent Scotland would damage the economy of the North due to tax competition driving down wages and stealing businesses.

Pointing to reports conducted by Common Weal, he argued that an independent Scotland would strive to leave behind the “predator capitalism” of the UK economy where the motive is to drive down wages and corporate taxes to achieve optimum growth.

Instead, Scotland would be a partner for the North of England to emulate focusing on productivity, the development of sustainable local economies and businesses, relying on an economy consuming high-quality products from small and medium-sized domestic producers rather than corporates.

“This version of a future Scottish economy could be very positive for the north of England.” Robin McAlpine

According to McAlpine, this would result in Scotland not having to compete in an aggressive downward spiral with a Northern of England still suffering from lack of investment from London.

In his piece, he writes: “It is perhaps unsurprising that this tendency exists when the UK’s economic model is so overwhelmingly dominated by the financial interests of London. The twin giants of London’s wealth generation – property speculation and the capturing of international financial markets, really does have an element of zero-sum about it. But this speculative economic model has not been a positive development for the economy of much of the rest of the UK.

“Many independence supporters in Scotland are motivated by the desire to develop a different kind of economic model based on sustainable production and enhanced productivity, finance as an enabling industry and not the primary focus of economic policy, more effective exploitation of resources such as land and the potential for renewable energy, on ‘smart specialisation’ in knowledge economies and more – all driven by an integrated national, regional and local industrial strategy.

“And this version of a future Scottish economy could be very positive for the north of England.”

“Many independence supporters in Scotland are motivated by the desire to develop a different kind of economic model.” Robin McAlpine

In January of this year a petition of around 50,000 was signed asking for the North to follow Scotland once it gained its independence showing the frustration of some in the continued lack of investment and political power for Northern England.

The UK Government has since the 2010 elections pushed the idea of promoting a “northern powerhouse” where it encourages firms to relocate or invest in the North. But Northern MPs such as UK Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has termed the scheme a “mirage to pull the wool over our eyes”.

Suggesting that an independent Scotland would result in an increase in economic and democratic development for the Nothern regions of England, McAlpine also rejects the notion that a hard border would be a possibility. The idea was first put forward by Ed Miliband during the 2014 referendum on independence when the former UK Labour leader sought to match the hard rhetoric of then UK Chancellor George Osborne who said Scot would not be allowed to use the “UK pound”.

He added: “On borders, the idea that there would be armed border posts or anything of the sort is just silly. A modern system of ‘smart borders’ would allow goods, services and people to cross the border with the freedom they do now, as a recent Common Weal report shows.

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Picture courtesy of James Creegan

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