I was interested to read an article by Richard Leonard, leader of the Labour group in the Scottish parliament, in the Scotsman today, calling for a Green New Deal. He said:
[T]he pressing need to radically develop Scotland’s infrastructure to meet the climate challenge is an opportunity to reinvigorate our post-Covid economy and revitalise our industrial base, which has been in steady decline for decades.
That’s why I am proposing a Green New Deal for Scotland. This draws on the international phenomenon, popularised by the socialist US House of Representatives member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with the guiding principle that we do not need to choose between climate justice and social justice.
These are issues I can fairly say I know something about. And I am quite sure as a result that Richard Leonard does not.
Of course he is right that Scotland needs a Green New Deal.
He is right too that it could create jobs.
And he is right that the scope of that Green New Deal will need to be wide.
But he falls flat on his face when talking about how he will pay for an ambitious Scottish Green New Deal within the scope of the Union.
He says it will be paid for by:
- More Scottish government borrowing;
- Scotland's share of the benefit of leaving the EU;
- An enhanced fiscal framework, without giving a clue what that means;
- A bigger UK wide deficit, of which Scotland would get a part.
I hate to be disparaging, but the second of these clearly does not exist: there is no chance of a bonus from leaving the EU.
The first could be done, but would, unless Scotland was independent, inevitably lead to higher taxes because the Scottish government has to balance its budgets as a result of not having control of its own fiscal and monetary framework. Without saying what the new fiscal framework might be leaves that suggestion, to be blunt, meaningless: reform is possible but it is exceptionally unlikely any London Chancellor would agree what is required.
And as for a bigger deficit, that, of course, will happen, but to think that Westmonster is going to let Scotland have the choice over how it is spent is beyond wishful thinking.
I have them to suggest that Richard Leonard is not being serious. Scotland could have its own, transformational, Green New Deal. But not unless it is independent. If he does not realise that then he really does not understand the constraints within which he is hoping to work, and that is worrying.