ONE day I will be able to think about something other than the economic crisis that is coming our way this winter, but right now it dominates my waking hours. There is good reason for that. As things stand at present what’s coming our way is the worst economic crisis of my lifetime, and I started studying economics 48 years ago. That means I don’t just recall the problems of Covid and 2008, but also those of the 1970s, the Thatcher years, the early 1990s and the largely forgotten crisis that happened at the start of this century.

This crisis is worse than all these for three reasons. The first is that it has arisen because of events almost entirely outside the UK and therefore largely outside our control. Both gas and food price increases largely fall into this category.

Second, unlike 2008 and 2020 we now have the Bank of England under the control of a Governor who not only has no idea how to manage the crisis that we are facing but who also appears to be intent on making it very much worse by both increasing interest rates without any good reason and by urging that people take below inflation pay rises, which means he is advocating increased poverty.

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Third, as is very apparent from the Tory leadership hustings, we are also going to have a new prime minister who has no idea of the scale of the crisis that we face, or how to address it.

Adding these three factors together it is apparent that the crisis we face is caused by a combination of denial, ignorance and dogmatic belief in policies that have no hope of achieving the triple goals of beating inflation, stopping recession and preventing a cost-of-living crisis. If anyone has doubts on this, watch a video of the Perth hustings between Truss and Sunak.

It hardly needs mentioning, but nonetheless it must be said that this is not a healthy situation. When millions of people in Scotland alone are facing the prospect of their households being unable to pay their debts, we might hope that level-headed competence would be the skill characterising those leading us but the truth is that neither Sunak nor Truss are possessed of these qualities.

Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, has in this situation delivered a PR success for his party by suggesting that the energy price cap for all households in the UK, whatever their income, be fixed at its current level of £1971 a year. The suggestion is undoubtedly politically astute, and it least it shows a level of concern that is absent in any Tory offering. I do, however, suspect that Starmer knows that the plan is not really a solution to the crisis we are in. It is only for a six-month period, and few think that this crisis will be over by Easter next year. In addition, it subsidises wealthy households as well as poor ones, which does not suggest good use of funds. But worse, the plan is terribly incomplete.

It seems that all politicians are of the opinion that this crisis is simply about the obvious inability of households to pay their bills. No one should underestimate the significance of this issue. I think that well over half of all households will have energy bills that they will struggle to pay this winter, and that is before the misery of rising food, rent and mortgage costs are also taken into account. It is vital that these issues be addressed by additional support, and by capping bills.

But, as I wrote in a comprehensive plan for tackling this crisis that I put together last weekend, entitled ‘Surviving 2023’, solving the problems for households alone will not save the economy from ruin right now. Businesses, public services and charities also need help if jobs are to survive, services are to be maintained, and the economy is to continue to work.

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Without help, schools, hospitals, care homes, many small and even larger businesses, as well as many charities on which the most vulnerable depend will be unable to survive this winter. Like households, they also have no way to pay their fuel bills, let alone the reasonable pay rises people both expect and need.

As yet, it seems that almost no politician gets this. So far neither of our would-be prime ministers have given even a hint that they appreciate the scale of the mess we’re in. The only thing that they are sure of is that Scotland has no right to decide its future. And the truth is that because this is not an issue that can at present be resolved at Holyrood, the SNP is carefully letting this debate very largely pass it by, so we cannot really tell where it stands.

My position, however, is clear. It would be almost impossible for Scotland to face worse outcomes as an independent country than it will now as a part of the UK given how bad the choices by the Government and the Bank of England are at present. Unless an independent Scotland suddenly decided to vote Tory that would always be true. In that case, this crisis will make an overwhelming case for a Yes vote next October. The Tories should take note.