In the Daily Mail this week there was an extremely revealing interview of Richard Marsh, one of the economists who advised the Sustainable Growth Commission before they published their report in May 2018.
In this interview, Marsh is extremely critical of the Commission’s approach to currency, calling Sterlingisation an option of “last resort” and that “no credible economist would advocate Sterlingisation as the policy of choice”.
His arguments about the impact that this policy would have on the Scottish economy are almost word for word the same that those that Common Weal made at the time of the report’s release and during our influential campaign to try to persuade SNP members to reject the Growth Commission Report and the motion to use it as the basis of the SNP’s independence framework.
That campaign was only partially successful. An amendment was passed to change the timeline for transition from “when the Growth Commission’s ‘six tests’ are met” to a timeline of launching an independent currency “as soon as practicable” after independence. Unfortunately, the SNP leadership chose at the time and continue to choose to ignore the will of their members by creatively interpreting “as soon as practicable” to mean “when the ‘six tests’ are met”.
Marsh’s comments today raise further questions about the manner in which the Growth Commission was conducted. It certainly raises substantial issues about the transparency of the Commission around how its final recommendations were made. Now that we know that the decision to adopt Sterlingisation was not unanimous, we in the independence movement (and certainly SNP members who were asked to endorse these proposals) should be told if there were any other dissenting voices on the Commission and how their opinions were handled (and apparently dismissed) during the writing of the report.
In response to concerns raised about the Growth Commission – particularly its silence on social issues – the First Minister recently announced the creation of a Social Justice and Fairness Commission to examine these issues but this new commission has already stated that it shall not be responsible for reassessing or replacing the Growth Commission’s conclusions. Similarly, while the First Minster has ordered the creation of a new independence White Paper, we have heard nothing yet about whether it will be based on the Growth Commission’s policies or whether it will be taking an independent path and drawing in a wider range of voices from the independence movement to contribute to it (as of the time of writing, Common Weal has not been approached to lend our expertise).
With calls for a second independence referendum growing louder and more imminent, it is vital that the SNP and wider independence movement reassess the Growth Commission in light of these revelations amongst others such as our concerns that the report is incompatible with the SNP’s stated desire to re-enter the European Union as well as the report’s fundamental incompatibility with the Green New Deal that is vital for the survival of the planet.
Many serious questions have been asked of the Growth Commission by us and by others. Almost none of them have been answered – either being brushed aside or simply ignored. But now that these questions are being raised by the very people who advised on the report’s creation it is imperative that the SNP reconciles its policies of independence in Europe and a Green New Deal with the Growth Commission’s Sterlingisation policy that would exclude Scotland from both. If the SNP are serious about bringing about an independent Scotland and committed to Scotland playing a substantial and valued role in Europe and on the global stage then it must start by addressing well founded concerns that many, groups and individuals, including Common Weal, have voiced regarding their policies. Changing adopted policy stances has never been easy for politicians but rather than regarding change as a sign of weakness, it would do the current generation of politicians well to recognise that the political, economic and environmental landscapes of the planet are themselves changing rapidly. It should be seen as a sign of strength not to ignore these signs, to adapt to those material changes in circumstance and to let their principles dictate their policies rather than the other way around.