If you’re looking for a bargain, go to the 2007 National Assets Register and look under the section on Scotland – it makes rich pickings. You can pick up Bute House – after you persuade Jack to leave – for £1 million – all 493m2 – or how about Edinburgh castle (the military and civilian bits) for £6 million. Have a look http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/documents/public_spending_and_services/national_asset_
But however absurd these prices, it’s the omissions that stand out. Exactly how long have we spent laughing and crying over the Scottish Parliament building, but it’s nowhere to be seen. Even if you think the parliament’s a liability, the building’s still got to be worth something!
I can only think of three explanations, all conspiratorial.
1. Someone sold the parliament – some kind of secret transfer no one’s ‘fessing up to yet, or maybe swapped it for a colony in Panama.
2. The Treasury has systematically undervalued Scottish assets in preparation for any kind of debate about who owns how much come Independence.
3. It’s just easier to leave it off the balance sheet. If a valuation chap/esse went down from Simpson & Marwicks and came back with a report that it was only worth £100 million when we all know it cost way over £400 million, exactly how would that look on the front pages. By diverting your attention to the ludicrous undervaluation of the castle etc. the truth about the parliament remains veiled.
When you look for totals, there they are – Scotland has £23 billion of assets. But don’t forget, Scotland has a share of the Ministry of Defence, Scotland has a share of the Bank of England (I’ll deal with William Paterson later), has a share of the Palace of Westminster and Buckingham Palace. It’s a great Unionist argument – you can’t dissolve the Act of Union because it’s too difficult to divi up the assets. Too difficult for you perhaps, but I know some very smart people who wear suits and are not intimidated by a half baked list of numbers generated by the Treasury.
The mundane reality is that in this list of Scotland’s £23 billion of assets, just over half of them are our roads. I find that curiously disappointing. When I think of Scotland I think of something grander than the M8, the A85 or the B499.
But on the other hand if (singing) “ye’ll tak the high road and I’ll tak the low road” then pretty soon, like the parliament buildings, there won’t be any left.