12 months to grab a granny, a ferry, a mail service: go for it

Two things happened today which signal that the Scottish Government is throwing open the vaults in a desperate attempt to shore up the independence vote at all costs.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that, after long denials of the operational feasibility of such an action, MV Coruisk is to be deployed over the winter on the Gourock-Dunoon route, when she is not on her primary duty as relief boat for the Wemyss Bay-Rothesay service.

MV Argyll Flyer is also to become lead boat of the two current Argyll Ferries vessels. Her greater reliability compared to her fleet sister,  MV Ali Cat, will see her deliver the service connections with the express trains from Gourock railhead to Glasgow.

These arrangements, with this route operating through three available boats, not two, will see the cost of this ferry service rise heavily. As a vehicle and passenger ferry, usable only as a passenger service on this route, Coruisk’s greater weight will incur greater fuel costs – and therefore greater environmental costs.

Moreover, with one of either the Ali Cat or the Coruisk lying idle at any given time, the financial accounting of the true cost of the enhanced service will be interesting.

It would also be intrigjuing to see how this is handled in relation to the original contract which Argyll Ferries won in the tender process; and the subsidies outside that contract now to be made available to the company, retrospectively.

Were there any competing bidders for the original tender who submitted a bid that would have delivered a better service from the outset; and that would now have cost less than the Argyll Ferries bid with this added mid-term mash up?

Then, in the Scottish Parliament earlier today, in response to a question from Gavin Brown, Conservative Finance Spokesperson, First Minister, Alex Salmond, made an unequivocal commitment that an independent Scotland would renationalise the Royal Mail. Just like that. Challenged about it later, he qualified this in a curious way, saying:’Well, any government led by me will certainly do this.’

This unexpected – reckless – commitment came the morning after his Finance Secretary, John Swinney, repeatedly avoided answering that very question on renationalisation, put to him several times in the Scotland Decides ‘debate’ on television last night [18th September].

It comes too on the day new polls are showing those in favour of Scottish independence consistently 2-1 behind those in favour of maintaining the Union. Desperate times bring desperate measures.

Me Salmond’s commitment also comes on the day that the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies published a report on the financial balance sheet of an independent Scotland, showing serious difficulties in meeting spending requirements – difficulties that could only be resolved by cutting services or raising taxes by 15%.

The cost of ‘renationalising the Royal Mail’ – were it to be done in these exact terms to which the First Minister has now committed – would be a massive additional cost to be added to what is an already impossible balance sheet.

There would be Royal Mail shares relating to the Scottish end of the newly privatised business to be bought out. There would be pensions commitments to be adopted. There would be investments to be made…

It could be done, not by ‘renationalising the Royal Mail’ but by setting up a replica of it for Scotland, within state control. But that too would be expensive and time consuming. It would involve complex discussions with the Trade Unions on terms and conditions where the intent was to employ experienced staff from the previous Royal Mail set up.

And as we have already asked, how could 10% of the population of the UK with 60% of its landmass – much of which is rural and remote rural,  all covered by a universal service obligation  – hope to pay for such a service? The initial debt and the accumulating losses would be unthinkable.

In response to accusations that the First Minsiter, as he appears to be doing and not for the first time, is making policy on the hood, Mr Salmond’s spin doctors have insisted that it as a preplanned strategy ‘to wrong-foot his opponents’. The fact that it also wrong foots’ Scotland would seem to be of no account.

We are prepared, on detailed evidence we have been working on for six months and on which we have regularly published serious analyses, to say with certainty that Scotland could not afford the independence scenario that is being proposed.

That is not the same thing as saying that Scotland could not be an independent country. Of course it could. But it could not deliver on the promises made without seriously cutting services and welfare costs or hiking taxes. Either way, one sector of the population of this country would be a substantial loser.

We say this, having hoped to have been given a vision and told the truth about the cost of it, from the outset  – and having been prepared to buy into that truth.

What we have been given instead is no vision at all, little more than a reheated casserole of the current UK, still dependent but rebranded and flying a different flag; and alongside the absence of a robust or any balance sheet.

Yes Scotland has wealth – but it is far more limited and circumscribed than has been admitted. We don’t own the oil. That ownership is on lease to the oil companies. We own the right to tax their profits – when they are producing – but we have had to agree to give them tax relief to offset the huge costs of decommissioning the over-age infrastructure in the North Sea. We will earn little if anything from oil for a considerable time. And when we do, it will not even be enough to pay to service the level our national debt will be from the start – and rising.

Our renewables resources are in the same frame and our hugely generous subsidies to developers in this sector are seeing household, business and public services’  energy prices rise continually.

Then there are our welfare costs and our public services. The IFS report shows that Scotland spent £7,932 per head on public services in 2011-12. The UK as a whole spent 17% less than that, £6,803 per head. Scotland’s higher spend was largely down to our higher social costs.

This is simply a reality check. It really does not begin to add up. We began as supporters of independence and continue to contribute positive ideas on how Scotland might develop as a nation, independently or as a federal state. We are no scaremongers. Nor were we afraid to pay for the sort of Scotland we might have been offered.

Supposing the SNP Government had said:

‘Independence is about nation-building, about a new start, about strong foundations for the long term, about bringing into being a new way of managing our society, our business and our government, about responsibility and about work.

‘It will mean that for around 15 years we will have to accept a lower standard of living and we will have to work harder  – but at the end of that we will together have engineered a new, forward looking society, on the way to being better educated, more capable, more self confident and with a sense of purpose, working together to grow this country’s economic success, to secure its enduring prosperity and to look after – well – those who will always need our care’.

We would have bought into that without hesitation. You get nothing for nothing. This would have been worth the commitment and worth judiciously managed retrenchment for a period of refocusing.

But no.

What we have got is no vision, only the juvenile myth that all Scotland needs  to be wealthy, thriving and seeing every one of its citizens £500 better off each year from Independence Day in May 2016 – is to be free of England.

We have seen no balance sheet.

Not only would we have a debt that, even yet, has not been adequately estimated. We would now have an even bigger debt in renationalising or replicating the Royal Mail. And the Scottish Government is pressing bullion on everyone who throws sustained tantrums to get what they want, not what they need.

You’ve got 12 months folks. Go for it. Your lucky day may be one of the next 365.

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20 Responses to 12 months to grab a granny, a ferry, a mail service: go for it

  1. drivel

    ps

    Do you agree with the selling off of the Royal Mail to foreign investors?

    do you wish to spend the billions on nuclear weapons every year?

    would energy prices be cheaper if the power suppliers had not be privatised. By the way it is the same gas, electricity going through the pipes–just different middle men exploiting the poor

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 13

  2. What would happen if the new privatised post office delivery service proved to be better than the one being offered by the SNP? Or are they now offering free stamps as a universal benefit as well?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  3. The is nothing wrong with Royal Mail, it makes substantial profit, is as we speak competing in an expanding market and delivers a fantastic service.
    Why privatise?
    “You’ve got 12 months folks. Go for it. Your lucky day may be one of the next 365″
    That’s right folks, 12 months to arm yourselves with as much information as we can, to put all prejudices, assumptions, bias, tunnel vision to one side and as unpalatable as it might be to do so, take a proper look at, actually listen to what the other side are saying. Delve a little deeper, listen to the debates and those politicians delivering their side regardless of responses or crowd participation.
    It’s up to us to read between the lines, its imperative to not to just glance at headlines, to take sound bites as our compass.
    I come into contact with many elderly people where I live through my employment, regrettably every other one has a Daily Mail at the side of their armchair, one of the top three selling ‘newspapers’ in Scotland. Many have only a fleeting interest in politics as do the public in general, yet are ‘educated’ on this incredibly important issue through some of the most dubious, misleading and one-sided ‘journalism’ available.
    The mainstream media particularly tabloids and broadsheets have almost all taken a particular stance and report accordingly.
    I ask myself, is this how we wish to arm the electorate to enable them to make an balanced and informed decision.
    Is there any satisfaction whatsoever in what I believe would be a hollow victory should a ‘No’ result be retuned for those who provided platforms with such influence?
    One final point.
    Last week an elderly lady I was conversing with stressed “Alex Salmond is a VERY dangerous man” to which I replied “Really, why’s that then?”. She mumbled and stuttered something rather incoherent then quoting something from her paper which later in our conversation turned out to be our (Faux Scottish) Daily Mail.
    Her comment about a democratically elected First Minister who by his fellow politicians was voted politician of the year.
    For Argyll and others who have the opportunity to influence on a larger scale must take this responsibility seriously, especially in the run up to this life changing decision we face, and provide impartial factual news as opposed to agenda (Be it personal or otherwise) driven opinion.
    If the news journalists on this site wish to express their opinion there are many other websites that provide forums or platforms to comment on news just as the rest of us do.
    I am a ‘Yes’ voter coming to this decision through taking the time to challenge and question opinions I had for a couple of decades taken for granted.
    Although gutted and demoralised I will accept a ‘No’ vote should this be returned next year if and ONLY if the playing field is plumb level.
    If not, the consequences will almost certainly be detrimental to the result.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

    • There is nothing more factual than the hard financial figures here and in the series of articles we have produced on this over the past few months, most emerging from independent financial analyses of our own.
      You don’t make any comment on those and I doubt if you have read them. Like your old lady, there are obvious limits to what all sides are prepared to bother to inform themselves about – and on so serious a matter. And that really is the trouble.
      It is THIS independence we conclude, on the evidence, is simply not viable. We are not opposed to independence as such.
      The proposition we would have bought into – as outlined above – was a hard one, honest and far more appealing than the glazed over and concealing giveaway, goo we’ve got. We were never looking for an easy ride. That was never going to be feasible in something as complex as this.
      It is a matter of concern that the Scottish Government clearly believes that Scotland will only buy independence if it’s soft, easy and cosy.
      It is not going to be like that. It cannot be.
      And those who buy the easy-peasy £500 a head better off moonshine will not have what it takes to buckle down to it and make sense of the reality afterwards.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

      • Newsie, you see, this is the problem, the flaw in every hole you pick in the ‘Yes’ option, there’s one common denominator.
        You talk of not buying into the SNP’s vision forgetting the SNP post independence have only a term in office, a term to keep the electorate on board. Failing to do so will at long last see them being replaced with one of the other parties only this time a party dedicated to the sole interests of the electorate who vote them into power.
        To, as you do, intentionally focus on portraying an independent Scotland as being conjoined with the SNP, as though they are one and the same thing is in my opinion misleading. This is NOT a vote for the SNP, it is NOT a vote for Alex Salmond, neither will appear on our ballot paper. Essentially we are voting to decide if decisions affecting the country we reside should be taken by those who actually live and work here or to be taken by another group of countries with only 4% representation from Scotland within that parliament.
        Like the UK, Scotland post independence will over the coming years and decades be shaped by the electorate through those ‘new’ parties, but parties imo unrecognisable from those we see operating in Scotland today.
        It is wrong to influence visitors to this site towards a ‘No’ vote simply by denigrating the SNP’s propositions when they may only have two further years governing this country if a ‘Yes’ is returned.
        Finally, regarding your assertion that I have not looked and digested the “independent financial analyses”, in part you are correct, some I have and admit to sometimes skimming. I do not hold great weight to independent findings, everyone comes from a particular angle including the SNP and ‘Yes’ supposed independent sources.
        I will also suggest that had you at least handled this debate (To date) with a relatively even hand I and no doubt many others would have taken your figures and “independent” source’s findings more seriously giving them more credence.
        Failing at such an early stage in the run up to this referendum to inform visitors of the merits and pitfalls of BOTH propositions has sadly let both you and the site down.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

        • Independence – “This is NOT a vote for the SNP, it is NOT a vote for Alex Salmond, neither will appear on our ballot paper”.

          This is absolutely the point. Independence is not the SNP. Whether or not Scotland subsequently votes for the SNP to be in power in an independent Scotland is a secondary question. If the people decide they don’t like SNP any more, they can vote in whatever party stands for election next time. And those parties might not have the same view as the SNP.

          Nuclear – is a party political decision
          Bedroom tax – is a party political decision
          Economic policy, fiscal policy, tax policy, benefits policy, European policy, immigration policy – all these are policy positions of individual parties that will come up for election every 5 years.

          People are understandably asking questions about these things but they are IRRELEVANT to the independence vote. They are totally relevant to who people would vote in to lead an independent Scotland in 2016/21/26/31/36/41 etc etc.

          That is maybe why people aren’t getting answers to the questions they are asking – because the parties can give answers only relevant to their political position and they don’t know any more than I do who will be in power in 15 years time.

          The big question for me is whether Scotland, in the long term, can afford it.
          I have no doubt with the oil wealth, Scotland does generate more tax per head than the rest of the UK. I’ve no doubt that Salmond is right when he says Scotland is a wealthy country that can afford all its free services.

          But take out oil and the picture is very different. From what I’ve read Scotland spends 11% per head more on public services than the rest of the UK. Independence is a once only decision. We may be able to afford it all for the next 30,40,50 years. But in 75? 100 years when the relentless global demand for oil has used it all up?
          This is within the lifespan of children being born today.

          The Union is 300 years old. Scotland has been a net contributor for little over 10% of those years because of oil. When the oil wealth goes, within the lifespan of our children, we may have built an oil fund, we may have a dynamic and reshaped economy but all the generous freebys we enjoy today are too much of a drain to be sustainable without the massive oil revenues so they will, at some point, have to be cut, stopped or funded with a much higher ‘normal’ tax take.

          My concern isn’t the next 30 years. I’m sure they’d be great. It’s that our grandchildren will be looking south and asking why this generation cut them loose when Scotland is in a very different place.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

          • You’re absolutely right in saying that Independence is not a vote for the SNP but has anyone told that to Alex Salmond?

            He seems to be determined to put free education for all in any constitution and now says he will re-nationalise the postal service after it has been privatised. Both these are party political issues but he’s using them to try to get votes for independence.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

          • Jerry,
            I agree with much of what you say but:

            1) No one can see into the future. Fretting about how the economy of an independent Scotland will look in 50 or 75 years makes no more sense than trying to picture how the UK economy will look then. If you could do that, believe me, the way the shorting and hedging end of the investment business works, you and your descendents could be billionaires.

            2) What’s the UK’s primary long-term economic selling point for the floating voter? The City? After that, I’m stuck. It’s a genuine question.

            3) As Keynes said, “In the long run we’re all dead” when complaining as long ago as in 1923 that his fellow economists shied away from making long term predictions.They still shy away, having discovered no crystal ball in the interim.

            4) You say that Scotland has been a net contributor for only 10% of the duration of the Union. I can’t say definitively whether you’re right or wrong but that’s a big surprise to me. Arguably, places like Glasgow and Greenock were among the richest places in the world 100 and 150 years ago, and no thanks to dole from London.

            As recently as forty years ago, a quarter of the world’s population lived in countries making up the sterling area, the largest and most coherent currency bloc of the time. Within five years, only Britain and Ireland, plus one or two minor nations, were left.

            A century ago, 60% of global trade was financed, invoiced and settled in sterling, London was the biggest city in the world and at the centre of the biggest, most powerful empire in the history of the planet.
            Fifty years from now? Who knows? Times change, not necessarily for the better. But, regardless, so far the sky hasn’t fallen in.

            In the final analysis, my Yes/No decision hinges on self respect. I’m sick of being told I’m a subsidy junky and that we’re too stupid to care for ourselves. It’s disappointing that, judging by what I see on both sides of the argument, most of my fellow Scots have more mercenary motives.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

          • PM, that is of course another way of looking at it. You are right that we’re equally as uncertain on what a UK economy might look like and perhaps I shouldn’t worry about the long term future. I’ll be dead anyway!

            Act today and the future will look after itself, good or bad. I guess I’m comfortable in the knowledge that an economy of 5m people sitting within an economy of 65m people does offer a much greater resilience to economic shocks. See Iceland and Ireland as two prime examples of small economies torpedo’d by the actions of a few.

            Scotland has a very very large proportion of very expensive to service geographically remote areas.
            Central Belt Scotland has to be comfortable that it is happy to continue funding public services in expensive and hard to reach places. And remote Scotland has to be confident that Central Belt Scotland doesn’t become self absorbed at their expense.
            At the moment, we have a London:Scotland issue, with Scotland seen as an integrated whole. The north east and north west English regions have a London:Regions issue. I hope that an independent Scotland doesn’t develop its own North:South divide focused on Edinburgh and Glasgow.

            Perhaps you have more faith in human nature than I do?
            I hope you’re right.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • “THIS independence” as you refer to it (Presumably that proposed by the SNP) is OURS, (You I and every other voter) for the shaping should we choose it.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  4. That’s the problem with seeing life through Unionist spectacles. They only see things as they were. Freedom specs have to see things as they will be post Independence.

    I would hope that we would change our nation so that there will be few rural areas, like we have inherited from our centuries of London rule. That we compete in the world from marine transport centres in the Northern and Western islands. That our farming communities are reinstated to their previous world beating-excellence. That our cities are re-generated to re-kindle the spirit of doing, at home, more of the excellent work that Scots are renowned for across the globe. That we continue to invest our wealth through education, health and care.

    The list of what we Can Do is endless. Discussing facts and figures from alleged economists is what people in losing countries do.

    Vote YES, let’s go and re-join the working world as a welcome partner, don’t let them down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  5. So despite denying that she could meet the requirements of the timetable last year(and the year before), Coruisk will be used to guarantee some reliability of service this winter. Can we assume the TS mandarins who advised Stevenson, Brown and Sturgeon got an interview without tea and biscuits for providing duff info?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    • Just to make aware of a couple of pertinent points regarding the coruisk

      She is still to be used as relief for the rothesay – wemyss bay route for the entire winter in the event of a break down

      She will not be available for service on the dunoon route for approx 6 weeks during the winter whilst running on the rothesay to wemyss bay route whilst the bute and argyll are in for annual refits

      every winter she does in fact sit idle for most of the winter as the relief vessel, so no additional costs incurred because of this, only extra fuel costs whenh covering the dunoon route

      she will ONLY be on the dunoon route in the event of poor weather or breakdown disrupting the flyer or ali cat, and will not be operating to current timetable as she is not able to do that

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • The advice was palpable nonsense; a ship with a service speed of 14 kts, required to maintain 12kts for the ridiculous CPA speed limit, can’t stay within the timetable, particularly when there are no vehicles to shift off and on at either end? Pull the other one; it has bells on.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Too slow, wasn’t she?

      I caught her on the AIS doing an average of 14 knots plus for hours on end on passage from layup in Troon up to Mallaig back in March. (And I checked – the tide was against her for the period I reported.)

      Within a few hours of my reporting this on CC, the speed had been reduced to 11 knots and the online log of the passage was reset. Coincidence?

      As I said at the time, I wonder someone had been feeding BS to ministers.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

      • Just make a FOI request to CMAL for a copy of Coruisk’s sea trial report, which will have a nice graph of her fuel consumption against speed, right up to whatever she could do with the stops pulled out.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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