Monthly Archives: March 2016

And Denmark?

Today could have been Independence Day for Scotland if there had been a Yes vote in 2014. Alas there was not and we are still trapped within a sclerotic and ever nastier UK. However this has not stopped Unionists for using this (non)event as an excuse to yet again try to rubbish the whole notion of Scottish independence. Too wee and too poor. It seems that as an independent country there would be a black hole of £15n or £10bn, depending on who you read. Whatever the amount it is clearly something very, very bad. And without the generous largesse of England we up here would be facing disaster.

I am always bemused by these so called analysis and reports as they never seem to include any kind of a) international comparison, nor b) any kind of analysis as to why Scotland is in such economic poor shape. After all to the extent that the Scottish economy is in such a poor state, this must have something to do with the UK. There is no separate Scottish economy at the moment. We remain part of the UK. So any failings, economy wise, must be, at least in part, due to the incompetence of successive UK governments.

The lack of international comparisons has always seemed to me to be an ongoing weakness of the debate about independence. For this post I will concentrate on Denmark. Another relatively small north west European country. Slightly smaller in size than Scotland, with a slightly larger population. Hardly anyone disputes that Denmark continues to be an economic success story. It does not need to rely on anyone in order to pay its way in the world. Its GDP per capita remains higher than the UK’s. Its budget deficit is less than 3%, while its national debt represents just 47% of its GDP. All this without the blessing or curse of significant North Sea oil revenues!

So why is Denmark so consistently successful, while Scotland is apparently so consistently a basket case, unable to survive well on its own?  I can think of only two reasons that might account for Denmark’s success and Scotland’s relative failure. One is that Danes are simply genetically more intelligent, more enterprising and generally just better than Scots. A bit of a stretch this one, and not obviously true. Not sure that Unionists would want to push this line anyway. Not only are we too wee, too poor, but also too stupid!

The other possible explanation for Danish success it that Denmark, the land and its waters, is inherently more productive than Scottish land and seas. Now, not being either an economist, nor an expert on Denmark and its economy, this also seems a bit of a stretch. Not aware of any natural resources in Denmark that could even begin to explain its economic success.

The only other difference I can think of is that Denmark is an independent country and can thus tailor its policies, economic, financial, social etc to suit the needs of Denmark. While poor Scotland remains tied to the Westminster straightjacket, both in terms of overall taxation policy and spending decisions.

It would be helpful if some of our Unionist friends could explain to me just why Denmark is so successful and clearly manages very well as an independent country. What is it that Denmark has that Scotland has not? After all the whole thrust of the better together argument should mean that Scotland is economically more successful than Denmark. Why is it not?

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Filed under Economics, Scotland