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Mr Osborne, like Mark Carney before him, seems to have had no impact on voting intention. The ten opinion polls conducted since the chancellor’s speech in Edinburgh on February 13 show that “the currency intervention has not had a fundamental impact on the referendum race”, according to John Curtice, Scotland’s top psephologist. An average of those polls show the Yes vote on 43 per cent (excluding the all-important don’t knows), a two percentage point increase on the average between the start of the year and the speech. When asked by TNS BMRB, a polling company, to rank issues in order of importance to their independence voter, Scots placed currency eighth.

The good news for Better Together is that currency does not seem to matter much for Scots ahead of the vote on September 18. And yet the bad news for Better Together is that monetary union does not seem to be a decisive issue.

Let me try to explain this apparent contradiction. Read more

At the Budget last week, George Osborne said that “under this government income inequality is at its lowest level for 28 years”. Talk about chutzpah. Not only is this fact reflective of the financial crisis and the response of the social security system it is also marginal in a historical sense.

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“HS2 chief envisages benefits across north ” Financial Times, March 18

I’m buzzin’ for high-speed rail, like the rest of Manchester.

Some might say.

It’ll be supersonic.

It won’t be that fast but it will cut journey times among some cities north of London and between them and the UK capital, according to High Speed 2 Plus.

What’s that?

The latest master plan for the controversial rail network.

That’s well mint.

Doubtless. But before you acquiesce to a £50bn project, shouldn’t you ask for whom it is well mint? Read more

The nature of low pay has changed since the introduction of the minimum wage, 15 years ago. The chart below from the report shows that extreme low pay – earning less than half the median wage – has been nearly eradicated. But low pay – earning less than two-thirds of the median wage – is as prevalent as in the late-1990s.

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On Monday, the Labour party announced details of its “job guarantee” scheme for Britons aged 18-24 who have been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, the standard unemployment benefit, for more than a year. The Conservative party says that Labour is making an unfunded and unaffordable commitment.

The Treasury estimates that the scheme would cost £1.04bn per year. If that sounds conveniently like ONE BILLION POUNDS, I think you are on to something. The real figure would almost certainly be less than that.

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Raising the personal allowance further won’t help the poorest, never mind “just the very poorest”. With 4.6m workers (17 per cent) already not paying income tax, including an additional 2m due to the coalition’s policies, more of the gains will go to those on middle incomes. That might be a perfectly good thing to do but it is not helping the poorest.

the IFS calculates that 69 per cent of the £12.2bn cost of raising the Personal Allowance to £12,500 would go to working families in the top half of the income distribution, 16 per cent to pensioners, and a mere 15 per cent for working families in the bottom half of the population. Of course, any big tax cut like this one would mean public spending cuts elsewhere, which would likely fall harder on the bottom half.

The politics of the personal allowance rise is obvious but so too is its flaws. If you would like to help the low paid, there are better ideas.
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In January I visited my old school in Edinburgh, where I met four pupils from its gifted and talented programme. When I asked the 12-year-olds what they had been doing that day, one explained they were rewriting fairy tales. Her friend picked up the thread; once upon a time Ariel, from The Little Mermaid, had turned Jasmine, the heroine from Aladdin, into a similarly semi-aquatic character. Jasmine drowned. This ploy was meant to clear the way for Ariel to seduce Aladdin. Unfortunately for the princess, he turned out to be gay. His marriage to Prince Charming was imminent, continued another pupil. The End.

This story would not score well on the Programme for International Student Assessment. Pisa compares student achievement in OECD countries. Its latest results have worried western governments and parents; Chinese pupils, even those from poor backgrounds, are scoring higher than most of their American and European peers. Perhaps I should be horrified that the clever kids I met were sounding more like Roald Dahl than mathematicians. Read more

If you are an overseas investor curious about British people, or at least their property, I suggest you spend an hour watching the popular television programme Location, Location, Location. A typical episode will feature two couples, each looking for a house. At the outset, they tell us about their budgets, which are tangible, and their dreams, which are intangible but often manifest themselves through the medium of original fireplaces.

The tension between reality and aspiration, heightened by a pair of plummy presenters, makes the show. After a tour of the local market and the ritual sacrifice of an interior design fantasy, prospective buyers will find a place and make an offer, usually from a pub. Cue music. Will the owner accept the bid? Not for that price, surely? Yes! I would not say I enjoy the anxiety but, like millions of others, I cannot turn it off.

They call it reality television for a reason. Britain has mass angst about housing. Prices and rents are rising across the country, particularly in London, where growth is in double digits. In December, official figures showed that the average UK house price had for the first time risen above £250,000, or about 10 times median income. The divide in wealth between those who own property and those who do not is growing, and with it a gap between equity-rich baby-boomers and “Generation Rent”. Read more

The Scots who have yet to make up their minds ahead of September’s referendum are the most important people in Britain. They will decide whether the 307-year old political union will come to an end. In the third of our videos for the FT’s Scotland series, I tried to figure out who they are and what they want.  Read more

At times it can seem there are more data released on Scotland and independence than there are caramel wafers made by the Tunnock’s factory. Below are some of the charts I find most useful when thinking about independence. I have pulled them all together here. The last two charts are almost certainly the most important. Read more