“This level of commitment to spinning a false grievance narrative genuinely sickens me” – Unionist commentator Kevin Hague replying to Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes’s claim the Scottish Government will only get £21 million in new money from the Chancellor to protect jobs; posted on Twitter July 8, 2020.


AFTER his tweet, Kevin Hague was forced to eat his words when the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies did the sums again and agreed with the Cabinet Secretary. Hague was forced to apologise.

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ON July 8, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced his so-called Plan for Jobs – a summer budget update worth “up to” £30 billion, in response to the economic crisis caused by Covid-19. A subsequent press release issued by the Scotland Office stated categorically that “the Summer Economic Update confirms an additional £800m of Covid-19 funding for the Scottish Government through the Barnett formula” (our emphasis).

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In direct response, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, issued a rebuttal on Twitter stating: “Of the c. £30 billion announced by the Chancellor today to support the economy, the Scottish Government will receive only £21m – less than 0.1%”.

A number of Unionist commentators then attacked the Cabinet Secretary, rejecting her figures. They included Kevin Hague whose “Chokkablog” blogsite is dedicated to attacking the economic case for Scottish independence. Hague’s response to the Kate Forbes tweet was splenetic. He tweeted: “This level of commitment to spinning a false grievance narrative [ie the Cabinet Secretary’s figures] genuinely sickens me”. He went on: “It angers me so much that I should probably stay off Twitter tonight”.

The next day Hague wrote an extensive blog article refuting Forbes’s claim that only £21m was due the Scottish Government in Barnett consequentials. He admitted “it has taken me most of the day” to do his calculations and lamented that “far fewer people will take the time to understand the complicated truth than accept the simple lie”.

Strong words from Mr Hague. And words he would be forced to eat.


HAGUE is a former management consultant and self-styled entrepreneur. Most recently he was associated with a small, West Lothian mail order company called M8 Group Ltd, which specialises in pet and garden supplies – he resigned his directorship in July 2020. In 2018, M8 Group made a loss of £162,000 before tax, according to the firm’s last registered accounts.

Politically, Hague is chair of These Islands, a think tank dedicated to providing new arguments for the Union: “our ambition is to maximise the benefits of the Union between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland for all” and “to review and renew our constitutional settlement”.

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The advisory board of These Islands includes former Labour minister Brian Wilson, Sir Andrew Large (former Barclays and currently a senior advisor to the hedge fund industry), Keith Cochrane (former CEO of the collapsed, disgraced Carillion Plc, which strangely is not mentioned in Cochrane’s These Islands biography), Lord Guthrie (former chief of the general staff), and Michael Jary (chair of Duchy Originals, the organic foods company set up by Prince Charles).


HAGUE entitled his supposed refutation of Kate Forbes: “Grievance, Dissected”. In the original blog version, he accepts at face value the Chancellor’s claim that the Plan for Jobs means £30bn of new money, though there are references in the initial Treasury paper to existing cash pledges being “brought forward”.

Hague skips over these references in order to claim Forbes is deliberately ignoring a bonanza of new cash coming directly from the Treasury to Scotland, though outside of Holyrood control.

Suspiciously, despite endless laudatory quotes from Sunak’s Plan for Jobs, Hague actually avoids giving exact numbers for what he considers to be the correct Barnett consequentials. In fact, he admits: “I don’t know what the Barnett consequentials are on the £30bn figure”. How then can he criticise Kate Forbes?

Instead, Hague quotes an analysis written on the day of the Chancellor’s statement, by David Phillips of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Here Philips rejects the Cabinet Secretary’s figure of £21m in Barnett consequentials as simply “not true”. Unfortunately for Hague, a week later Phillips reversed his judgement, explicitly exonerating Forbes, though he did point to the Stamp Duty cut which would lead to a lower block grant adjustment.

Using new data from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), Phillips showed that the Chancellor had deliberately fiddled his numbers. First, Sunak neglected to mention substantial cuts to previously planned budget lines, which the coronavirus crisis has made infeasible. Also, the OBR thinks that much of the planned funding for the Plan for Jobs might not be spent.

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In fact, the Chancellor’s putative £30bn could end up as little as £10bn net – with deep negative consequences for Barnett.

Phillips was scandalised by these Treasury fiddles. He lamented: “I, myself, have been confused by this lack of [Treasury] transparency.” He went on: “When asked whether the Scottish Government would receive just £21m as a result of the Plan for Jobs as the Scottish Finance Minister has claimed, I said that I couldn’t see how you would arrive at such a number ... But the Scottish Government won’t, as I initially presumed, get extra funding ... it will receive £21m – the figure quoted by the Scottish Finance Minister.”

Game, set and match to Kate Forbes.


KEVIN Hague was quick to reword his original blog (yesterday). He also apologised for essentially calling her a liar. But in his reworked blog post, there remains the implication that Forbes was manufacturing grievance for political ends. Buried deep in the small print of the revised blog, Hague makes a grudging admission regarding his earlier erroneous criticisms of the Cabinet Secretary’s integrity: “... it’s only fair to highlight that her figure is more justifiable than my original wording implies.”

The “values statement” on Hague’s These Islands website proclaims: “Informed and constructive debate on such a vital topic [ie the future of the Union] is impossible without a robust understanding of the relevant facts”. Far from providing a “robust understanding” of the true facts, Hague has aided the Chancellor’s sleights of hand – apology or not.



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