THE SNP demanded an apology from the government yesterday after uncovering secret Whitehall papers detailing how North Sea oil would enable an independent Scotland to prosper.They're not going to get one:
However Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling dismissed the document.I think that the SNP have every right to be upset:
He said: "This is typical of the Nationalists, looking back to the past. This document is 30 years old.
Kenny MacAskill, of the Scottish National Party, said the report was proof of 30 years of official lies, cover-ups and betrayal.But Mr MacAskill, "lies, cover-ups and betrayals" are what governments do. I'd expect an SNP administration to be no different when it suited them. But the real question is this: would an independent Scotland have benefited from the oil? MacAskill talks about "Arabian sheikdoms". Perhaps he's envisaging a Scotland in which we all drive around in gold-plated Cadillacs, have our every needs attended to by Indian immigrants, and from which we regularly pop off to Geneva to inspect our gold bars or undergo the latest medical treatment.
He added that it showed how much Scotland would have benefited from independence and oil.
He said that in the 30 years since the report, Scotland had suffered low economic growth and manufacturing decline while at the same time oil wealth had "transformed" Canadian provinces and Arabian sheikdoms.
I'm afraid that the reality might have been somewhat different. You see, the GDP per-capita in Saudi Arabia was $12,000 in 2004. The UK, with much less oil and many more people, managed $29,600. Having few natural resources didn't stop South Korea's per-capita GDP reaching $19,200, more than half as much again as Saudi Arabia. Perhaps government leaders (maybe including Mr MacAskill himself) would have been jetting off to Switzerland, but the rest of us might well be unemployed, like 25% of Saudi Arabians.
Owning lots of oil isn't necessarily a recipe for prosperity. Far more important is a culture that respects property rights and whose people admire and wish to emulate entrepreneurs. Sadly, that doesn't sound like Scotland, does it? Better to say, proudly, "It's Scotland's Adam Smith", rather than "It's Scotland's oil".