Brexit chaos

IN another sign that Brexit is going terribly well, Lidl has become the latest supermarket chain to ration sales of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. The British media largely denies that the shortages are due to Brexit, instead blaming bad weather in Spain and Morocco, but similar problems are not affecting supermarkets in France, Spain or Belgium. Brexit is a big factor in why the shortages are so severe in Britain. Brexit has disrupted supply chains, and caused labour shortages which have reduced the UK's domestic production. Additionally the additional paperwork created by Brexit makes it far easier for producers in Spain and Morocco (which is not a member of the EU) to deal with importers in EU countries instead of sending produce to the UK on routes which involve passing through at least two EU states.

A view from the States

The National: Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at Town Hall in New York. (Pictures PA)

US senator and erstwhile presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed the Scottish independence issue during an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky News on Sunday. Asked for his views on Scottish independence the veteran senator said: “I very much appreciate what the people of Scotland have done and what they're fighting for." He added: "If they want to go their own way, they should be allowed to".

That's because, unlike the Conservative and Labour parties, Bernie Sanders understands what democracy means. As a prominent left-winger it's clear that he also understands that the campaign for Scottish independence is not motivated by the kind of regressive and xenophobic nationalism which was a major driver of Brexit, but rather by an inclusive desire to build a fairer and more socially just society.

Brexit again

The National: Rishi Sunak

In what will undoubtedly prove to be the biggest test of his shaky grasp on leadership, Rishi Sunak is inching towards a deal on the Northern Irish Protocol with the EU. Although the deal may not be accepted by the DUP or the Brextremist wing of the parliamentary Conservative party, it will certainly pass successfully through the Commons as Keir Starmer's Brexit-supporting Labour party has vowed to vote for it.

Despite this, if sufficient numbers of Sunak's backbenchers reject the deal, it will call into question Sunak's leadership and strengthen his many enemies within the Conservative party, boosting the chances of Boris Johnson's not so secret desire to make a comeback.

Energy prices

Ofgem have lowered the energy price cap from the current level of £4297 to £3280 from April 1 due to the fall in wholesale prices for oil and gas. Despite this, household fuel bills are set to rise again in April as the British government scales back its support for domestic consumers.

This is because the Conservatives are more interested in protecting the excess profits of the big energy companies than in helping households whose budgets are already stretched to breaking point by soaring food and energy bills.

READ MORE: This is what Westminster doesn't want you to read: The McCrone Report in full

So it is instructive that this week, as even more Scottish households are faced with the prospect of being driven into fuel poverty, The National is publishing an in depth look at the infamous McCrone Report. Commissioned by the British Government in the 1970s, the report was kept secret from the people of Scotland until 2005. The British Government chose to keep the report secret because it showed that an independent Scotland would have a "chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe”.

Westminster feared that publication of the report would fuel demands for independence. Instead generations of Westminster politicians sat on the report and insisted that Scotland was utterly dependent on a transfer of funds from the rest of the UK while Margaret Thatcher presided over the devastation of Scotland's industrial communities and she and her successors squandered an immense reserve of natural resources owned by the people of Scotland, resources which could have been used to build a future for those communities which Westminster threw on the scrapheap.

The McCrone Report was published almost fifty years ago, but it remains relevant to this day. Although there is still plenty of oil and gas in the North Sea, the years of peak production are over. More importantly, Scotland and the world are now moving into a post-fossil fuel economy. However, Scotland is blessed with an enormous potential for renewable energy production.

The National: Hornsea One offshore wind farm, 174  7 MW turbines, total capacity of 1,2 GW, area 407 km2, 120 km to Yorkshire coast, UK.

Wind energy already supplies almost all of Scotland's domestic electricity needs, and the country has the capacity to produce several times more than its needs, creating a huge surplus for export. As well as wind, Scotland also has a massive potential for tidal energy production, a potential which as yet remains largely untapped. Although there have been arguments about the exact amount of energy Scotland is capable of producing from renewables, these arguments centre on the amount of the surplus Scotland can generate for export, whether that surplus is merely huge, or whether it is immense. Even the staunchest opponents of independence have to concede that Scotland can easily generate its own energy needs from renewables and have a considerable surplus for export.

Scotland had a massive windfall from oil and gas, a windfall which was squandered by successive Westminster governments even as they told Scots that their country was an economic basket case dependent upon the kindness and charity of the UK. We now have a second chance with renewable energy, it would be a crime to allow Westminster to squander Scotland's resources again, and to rob another generation of Scots of their future as the generation of the 70s and 80s was robbed.

Somewhere in the bowels of Westminster there might possibly be a 21st century McCrone Report about Scotland's renewable wealth. If such a report existed, we can be sure that the Conservatives would try to keep it a secret just as they kept the McCrone Report a secret, because now as then, they don't want Scots to know about the wealth and potential of Scotland, they want to keep that wealth for themselves and maintain the myth that Scotland depends on Westminster's largesse.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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