What the UK Government have really done to Scotland

In yesterday’s Herald, Tory peer Lord Dunlop wrote the ‘UK Government are doing more for Scotland than the SNP ever will'. Perhaps that explains why Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross didn't meet with Johnson on his latest furtive foray into ‘North Britain.’

The most notable thing that the UK Government have done for Scotland is to forcibly eject it from the world’s largest free trade bloc and damage Scotland's economy. The post-Brexit reality is grim, and no amount of furious political spin can conceal it. Before Brexit, exports accounted for a fifth of Scottish GDP. In the year to June 2021, they had plunged 25% compared to 2019. James Withers, head of Scottish Food and Drink, said many firms have simply “given up” on trading with EU companies because of the “tsunami” of red tape and said the worst is yet to come.

The Australian trade deal, trumpeted by Liz Truss with such fanfare, won’t increase UK GDP by even a tenth of a percent over 15 years, while Brexit is projected to shrink GDP by 4.9%. The deal will raise maritime and aviation carbon emissions, allow in cheaper, inferior quality beef and lamb produced to lower animal welfare standards, and undercut Scottish farmers, threatening their livelihoods. This was all agreed without the involvement of Scotland.

As for replacing the annual £2.1 billion Scotland lost from EU structural funds for infrastructure improvement, poverty alleviation, skills enhancement and agricultural support, a Westminster cross-party report said the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will fall short by 40%.

The loss of free movement has hit the hospitality, care and road haulage sectors especially hard, resulting in widespread labour shortages. And Brexit has resulted in higher energy and food prices, compounding the cost of living crisis.

Scottish artists can no longer afford to travel and perform in Europe because the UK government rejected an offer of visa-free travel for touring musicians across the EU. Scottish students have lost the opportunity to live and study in the EU following the termination of the Erasmus scheme.

This is just some of what the UK Government have done for Scotland. Factor in epic corruption, from cash for peerages to billions wasted on Covid contracts for cronies, chronic underfunding of the NHS, cruel cuts to benefit payments and regressive tax increases, and it’s easy to understand why this unequal Union is close to collapse.

Lord Dunlop says the drivers of Brexit and Scottish independence have common roots. They do insofar as both are rooted in Westminster malfeasance and mismanagement. But what he misses is that Scottish independence is driven more by both, a strong desire to have a government that is accountable to and interested in improving the wellbeing of the Scottish people and creating a nation that is inclusive, more equal and internally focussed. That is only possible with independence.

By Leah Gunn Barrett