Trumped Up Trade Talk

“Sooner or later every war of trade becomes a war of blood.” – Eugene V Debs

This past week has been an interesting one in terms of international trade news. President Trump announced, via a Tweet, that he was slapping import tariffs on Chinese steel and that “trade wars are good, and easy to win“.

The ripples of this announcement are still spreading but already countries and trading blocs like Canada and the EU are considering retaliatory tariffs.

The thing is, China isn’t even a particularly major player in US steel imports. It barely factors on any of the top fives by specific products.

US Steel

Continue reading


Affording It

“Britain is not Great. Britain is Weird”


The Usher Hall voting >90% in favour of Scotland adopting its own independent currency.

On the 4th of November I spoke at the Scottish Independence Convention’s Building Bridges to Independence conference. As with my SIC talk in January, it fell to me to be the one with the graphs and statistics – this time on the topic of public finances and the impact of independence on Scotland’s budget.

The livestream of my talk can be viewed thanks to Independence Live and is the first talk in this segment.

Below the fold are copies of my slides with comments drawn from my talk and references to the points made. The slides can also be downloaded here.

Continue reading

We Need To Talk About: Central Bank Independence

“The Treasury…may by order give the Bank directions with respect to monetary policy if they are satisfied that the directions are required in the public interest and by extreme economic circumstances” – Section 19, Bank of England Act 1998.

Theresa May is getting nervous. She’s seen the polls slip away from her. She’s seen the abject rejection of conservative politics first in Scotland and now in England too. She has just admitted that she jumped into her personal snap election whilst her party was completely unprepared to fight it. She is far from “strong and stable.

And now she’s getting worried by the growing pull towards the more interventionist economic policy advocated by Jeremy Corbyn and has responded with a speech defending Austerity and celebrating free market economics on the day of the 20th anniversary of the independence of the Bank of England. And so has begun fairly vapid tirades warning against the “dangers” of nationalism and populism.


Four Walls and a Roof

“It seems obvious: the reason only a tiny percentage of new…buildings and retrofits aren’t green isn’t cost. It’s lack of ingenuity or knowledge of new construction techniques — architects and builders wed to the ‘same-old,’ lenders leery of anything unconventional.” – Sustainable Energy Africa

Housing – buildings in general, in fact – needs to be about more than just four walls and a roof. It also needs to be about more than vague promises of “more houses built” or about a volume-based industry which tries to extract as much profit per square metre as possible or being about more than the landlords who swoop in afterwards to do the same.

And with around 53% of all energy use in Scotland being used for heating and only a small fraction of it coming from renewable resources, it needs to be about more than throwing up any old building and passing the costs and consequences on to those who’ll have to live and work in them for decades to come.

Recently, I got the chance to experience a glimpse of what a better future might look like in the form of a tour around South Lanarkshire College’s ‘Aurora’ Low Carbon House.


Continue reading

Democracy Repealed

“I can give an absolute guarantee that after the United Kingdom leaves the EU, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers will have more powers than they have today” – David Mundell, 1st March, 2017.

The UK Government published the Great Repeal Bill European Union (WIthdrawal) Bill 2017-19 yesterday and I’ll let you guess how long that “absolute guarantee” lasted.

mundell(Poster: Colin Dunn)

I’m going to have a look at the Repeal Bill (as I shall refer to it for the rest of this article) but I would heartily encourage folk to read the reactions of Ian Dunt and Andrew Tickell first. They are wise, know much and I can merely summarise for them.

Continue reading

Grim Drama Parked

“Tomorrow’s GDP figures will confirm whether or not Scotland entered a second quarter of economic downturn in the first three months of 2017.” – Scottish Conservatives. 4th July 2017.

The quarterly Scottish GDP figures were released today after a long build up in a press anxious to see if Scotland was on, as the Express put it, the “BRINK OF RECESSION” (their emphasis).

The figures themselves rather put a misstep into their charge.


The headline figures are that in Q1 2017, Scotland’s economy grew by 0.8% which is up substantially on the -0.2% contraction seen in Q4 2016. This positive growth also means that the two successive quarters of negative growth which define a technical recession were not met.

The UK’s GDP growth over Q1 2017 was 0.2% though in my last blog post I put substantial attention onto the point that we should treat such comparisons with a great deal of care given the large regional inequalities within the UK. I’d very much like to see the GDP of the UK broken down across its regions (especially London) before commenting too much on it.

And before we all start patting ourselves on the back at avoiding our “predicted” recession, it’s worth actually diving into the numbers and seeing what they do and do not tell us about the Scottish economy.

Continue reading