Since the start of 2020, opinion polls have given “Yes” campaigners a consistent lead over their unionist rivals. One recent survey predicted a total reversal of the 2014 referendum result — 55 percent in favour of separation, versus 45 percent against. Much of this swing is tied to Brexit – as Scots feel like they have been dragged out of the European Union against their will.
However, the coronavirus emergency seems to have deepened separatist sentiments.
According to political analyst Sir John Curtice, Scottish First minister Nicola Sturgeon has “played the politics” of the pandemic more adeptly than Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He said: “The public think that Nicola Sturgeon has handled the coronavirus crisis brilliantly, and they think Boris Johnson has done badly.
“That is not unique to those who voted No in 2014, or those who voted Leave in 2016. In all groups, Sturgeon is well ahead of Johnson.”
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In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, though, Ronald MacDonald, research professor of macroeconomics and international finance at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School, dubbed Ms Sturgeon’s independence bid incredibly dangerous for Scotland.
Ahead of Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum, the Scottish National party (SNP) sought to reassure voters worried about going it alone by citing a resurgent economy, a relatively modest budget deficit and the prospect of untrammelled free trade with both the remaining UK and the EU.
However, things are very different now and the medium term and fiscal difficulties are substantially greater than they were when voters rejected the idea of independence the first time.
Mr MacDonald explained: “The underlying deficit has not changed too much since last year.
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“It went up by half a percent, I think.
“That is not a sustainable deficit in itself. It is about 8.6 percent.
“So they [the SNP] have argued in the Growth Commission report that they could handle that by having higher growth if they were independent.
“But they haven’t said how they are going to get it.
“Of course, on top of that you have the coronavirus crisis, which means the deficit going forward. It will probably be somewhere in the 20 percent region or even 30 percent.
“That’s a huge deficit.”
The First Minister’s argument, the macroeconomist noted, seems to be that she can do what other governments are doing, which is to borrow heavily on financial markets at relatively low interest rates.
However, Mr MacDonald claimed there is a huge problem with that.
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He continued: “Their strategy for an independent Scotland is to have a relatively long transition period where they continue to use Sterling.
“Borrowing in a foreign currency is a very dangerous strategy, particularly if you are borrowing the kind of sums of money they are talking about.
“The reason for that is that if you adopt Sterlingisation that is a form of a rigidly fixed exchange rate.
“The UK has a flexible exchange rate. It means that when you get a shock to the economy, you have some means to adjust the economy to that.
“By adopting the currency of another country you really are fixing your currency against that currency. And you have got no means of adjustment.
“That is not tenable for an independent country.”
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