A LEADING economist has warned an independent Scotland must strive for self-sufficiency in key areas if it is to avoid famines because of the climate crisis.

Steve Keen, an honorary professor of economics at University College London, warned the British isles generally could be at risk of suffering from famines as global temperatures rose, which he said would result in the collapse of industrial agriculture.

Speaking at the Scotonomics Festival of economics conference in Dundee on Sunday, the professor argued that an independent Scotland must pursue a policy of autarky in food and energy production. 

The former head of Kingston University’s economics department in London painted an apocalyptic vision of the future and called for a system of rationing to be introduced to avoid devastating shortages of food and other essentials.

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He said an independent Scotland would be “better off stuck with the English” if it did not develop food self-sufficiency, arguing all countries would suffer problems if global temperatures continued to rise.

Keen argued the climate crisis would lead to the breakdown of the agricultural processes which kept food plentiful in the developed world and predicted that food-producing countries would increasingly adopt “nationalistic” protectionist policies to feed their own populations before exporting food to the rest of the world.

The UK imported 46% of the food it consumed in 2020, according to official statistics.

'Scotland hasn't got food self-sufficiency' 

Keen said: “I’m afraid, with an ecological hat on, the most important thing to have is first, sustainability because climate is going to destroy our capacity to have industrial agriculture and when that happens, there will be famines and the famines will lead to, probably, nationalistic policies.

"If you have a country that produces enough food and has an export surplus and then suddenly the capacity producers are massively damaged then their first priority is going to be feeding their own people and that means the food exports Scotland and England currently rely upon won’t be there.

“So if you don’t have food capacity, then you’re screwed.”

'This island is going to suffer' 

He added: “If you don’t have food self-sufficiency you’re going to be stuffed and as far as I’m aware, Scotland hasn’t got food self-sufficiency, so that’d be my very first policy, you have to build it.

“Otherwise – I hate to say it – but you’re better off stuck with the English, who’re not quite as lacking in food self-sufficiency as Scotland is on its own but they still do lack in food self-sufficiency.

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“This island is going to suffer very badly, when we start seeing the first of global food famines.”

And he attacked the SNP's official currency plans as "naive" and said an independent Scotland must have "monetary sovereignty".  

He said: “The monetary thing, this is another thing where the [independence] campaign has been quite naïve – a lot of the independence people are saying Scotland should just keep using the pound.

"Well that would be making the same mistake the euro made. You have a national treasury but no national currency and in that case you can’t create the money – the debt-free for the public, the fiat money, that a country that produces its own currency, although England has stuffed it up completely with its absurd focus on austerity, at least it has the capacity to run a deficit if it needs to, and as it was forced into during Covid.

"If you don’t have that capacity then you’re in a very, very bad way.”

This is counter to the SNP and the Scottish Government’s official position on the currency question, advocating instead for the continued use of sterling for an indeterminate period of time after independence.

Keen added: “If you’re going to talk about sovereignty, you’re going to have to talk about monetary sovereignty.

"Food sovereignty first, monetary sovereignty second and that means you’re going to have to have your own currency, you can’t rely on the English pound.

“You can’t be running a huge balance of payments deficit, because if you do then you’re going to forced to export goods to get the foreign currency to buy the goods you need, maybe even issue bonds in someone else’s currency – that’s just a recipe for disaster.”