Last week’s FM Questions did not much advance the sum of human knowledge as JoLa insisted on asking the same question (“What is “plan B” if currency union is not an option?”) four times in an obviously scripted attempt to finally score a point off His Eckness as Alastair Darling managed to do in their televised debate. His reply was equally consistent (if a touch more humorous than the expression-free zone of the Labour leader): there were a number of options laid out on Page 110 of Chapter 3 of the White Paper but only one was both desirable and right: “It’s Scotland’s pound and we’re keeping it”.
This question loop was clearly part of a cross-party drumbeat caterwauling at the prospect of independence because JoLa followed up with a press release early this week asserting that Scottish families would see their mortgages rise by £1,600 a year in the case of independence. How she could be so certain of numbers when she and her party can’t even outline what actions they would take to ‘improve’ the devolution settlement, should Scots not vote for independence, was not made clear.
What is even less clear is what fiscal planet nay-sayers like JoLa are living on when, virtually on the same day that £1,600-worth of doom & gloom was being peddled, the Daily Excess (no friend to those who don’t think that SE England is the source of all wealth and the font of all goodness) splashed with a very interesting piece that Scottish house prices had risen by £800 a month for the last year.
This rise was most pronounced in the capital where average single home price is up 4.2% in a month to reach £239,369 while oil-booming Aberdeen is not far behind at £228,802. And contrary to what Bitter Together would appear to assert, the rest of the UK is not sharing in this. Gordon Fowlis, regional managing director of Your Move, commented:
“While the majority of regions in England and Wales are witnessing price falls, the Scottish market is moving the other way.”
Even more inexplicable if you believe in impending independence fiscal disaster is seaside towns offering superb quality of life and accessible from those markets are doing even better. My own North Berwick comes in at £327,518 average, St Andrews at £261,446; Stonehaven at £211,413 and Inverbervie at £202,144.
None of this compares, of course, to London, where, as the Independent burbles:
“At £1.5m, a home in London remains a highly lucrative investment, as those who bought a property in ‘prime London’ this time last year would have made a profit of £166,216.”
For more realistic comparisons, let’s look to that lair of global capitalism, the USA. Not only have Americans been avidly practising career moves linked to property speculation decades before Londoners woke up to this nice little earner but the bitter recession of 2008 is now behind them and property prices rising across the States.
To what? Well, the top four markets there are all in California which is still being driven by waves of technology that gave us Silicon Valley, the PC, the internet and the iPhone. The four most expensive housing markets are San Jose, $899,500 (£535,416); San Francisco, $769,600 (£458,095); Anaheim-Santa Ana, $691,900 (£411,845) and San Diego, $504,200 (£300,119).
That my seaside town of 7,000 can compete in house price with top US markets and that our capital has a 13% edge over Washington DC’s $356,500 (£212,200) is no guarantee that such affluence is any less transient than other property bubbles that have come and gone.
But, if we were standing on the brink of fiscal disaster, why would canny investors lose their heads to buy up properties in the path of Hurricane Independence if they thought it threatened their wealth? What do they know that JoLa and her eye-of-newt forecasting cauldron don’t?