Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Politics Endures a Bleak Midwinter

There's been yet another kerfuffle over the past week regarding the economics of independence. This time, The Scotsman dragged out Professor Arthur Midwinter, an academic with well-known unionist sympathies, to accuse the SNP of fiddling the numbers on Scotland's fiscal position.

However, in a rare outbreak of fair-mindedness, the SNP got a right of reply in Monday's paper, the content of which seems to have got right up Arthur Midwinter's nose. Good - he's been quick enough in the past to dish out political barbs disguised as objective analysis, so to see his petulant reaction to having had shoddy assertions dismantled so comprehensively, was very satisfying indeed.

Anyway, you can probably imagine my delight to see a letter in today's paper from Professor Neil Kay, economist of this parish and briefly a tutor of mine at EBS. Prof. Kay has the rare gift of being able to take even the most complicated of subjects and cut out the crap, distill what's left down to its essence and explain the results in plain English. On this occasion, he doesn't disappoint...

'I am rather bemused by the coverage in The Scotsman and other newspapers describing Professor Arthur Midwinter as an "economist" and leading "expert", who has debunked the economic case for an independent Scotland. My understanding is that Prof Midwinter has a background in political science, indeed is a former professor of politics and a specialist in local government finance.

'It is, therefore, perhaps a step too far to saddle him with the label "economist", let alone describe him as an "expert" in the field. And, in fairness, I cannot recall him ever describing himself as an economist.

'If it is wished to have a mature debate on the economics of independence, I would sooner put weight on the opinion of Professor David Simpson, a qualified and highly experienced economist of the highest calibre, who cogently argued the economic case for independence in another newspaper this week. For what it is worth, I am pleased to second Professor Simpson's opinion that the economic arguments favour independence for Scotland.

'If we are taking a tally of professional economists' opinion, so far that makes two for and none against'.

(PROF) NEIL KAY, Department of Economics, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Ouch... but if we're in the business of keeping score, then the numbers for independence are even better than Prof. Kay suggests. Perhaps this is something reflected by the decidedly lukewarm response given to Gordon Brown, as he attempted to drum up opposition to the SNP at a clandestine CBI meeting in Edinburgh a fortnight ago.

Anyway, it seems that on the economics of Independence, the last unionist bolt has probably been shot. Maybe that means we can replace the fatuous argument about whether Scotland could be independent, with the far more important debate about whether she should be independent. Bring it on!


AJ fae Fife said...


Do you think AM2 and Midwinter are one and the same? I think they could be, which makes you wonder about the boy's sanity!

Farting aboot on the Scotsman canny be a way for a Prof to behave? His employers may take a dim view if this could be proven!:))

Anonymous said...

Brilliant it's all the unionistas have all I ever hear off people is 'will I be worse off' I mean come on as if it's brilliant at the moment with cuts to services and all that I love this but I wait the unionistas sayig it's a load of rubbish even though it's from an economist of the highest calibre.