The Swift is The Martlet Newspaper’s fortnightly News Bulletin, brought to you by the current editorial team (Samuel King, Rory Bishop, Johan Nerlov, Lachlan Jones and Ben Lisemore) to keep you up to date with the latest stories.
Scottish Independence Round 2?
On Sunday Boris Johnson, when asked on the matter, stated that under his parliament Scotland would not be granted another referendum for their independence. However, with a new general election pending, might a second referendum come to fruition, with the opposite result of that returned five years ago?
When Scoland put the fact to the formal vote in a pre-Brexit UK, the results showed that 55% believed Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom. However, most recent polling data of September 2019 shows the statistic has dropped down to 50%, whilst those in favour of leaving has gone up by 2%, making the pro-remain group the smallest lead so far. The prospect of reaping the benefits of the EU and its trade, amongst other factors, is greatly appealing to a nation like Scotland, as whilst it would be cutting English ties, a new tether to Europe could be established. This would mean the results would likely be largely different to the ballots cast half a decade ago.
The question of whether a referendum would be granted is a whole other entity in of itself. In response to Johnson’s claim, Nicola Sturgeon referred to the denouncement as ‘unsustainable’ and promised that a new request will be put in as soon as possible in the wake of the December 12th elections. Much like Brexit, this now hangs in the balance on the forthcoming elections.
What happened in the Rugby World Cup Final?
The Rugby World Cup in Japan has served up lots of thrills and spills over the last few weeks, with South Africa coming out on top. The Home Nations performed well, with Wales reaching the semi-finals whilst England made the final, having beaten Australia in the quarters and put in a brilliant performance against New Zealand in the semis. The final was a very cagey affair with a try not coming until the 66th minute when Makazole Mapimpi received the ball on the wing and chipped in behind for Lukhanyo Am to run on to before giving back to Mapimpi to score easily. The first half was dominated by goal kicking instead of try scoring, as Owen Farrel had two kicks for England whilst Springbok fly half, Handre Pollard, had four. The ‘Boks’ were never behind and killed the game in the 74th minute, when winger Cheslin Kolbe showed the speed he had in those feet and broke through the England defense for South Africa’s second try. The tournament also had it’s shocks, the big one being the hosts Japan, as they came out of the group stages ahead of Scotland which sent an entire nation into euphoria. The ‘Rugby fever’ around the country was very apparent and was shown when they played in their first ever knockout match and the entire stadium was filled with red and white shirts. Even though their side didn’t get the result they wanted the players had already achieved more than was expected, they had inspired a nation and bought the ‘World in Union’.
Aramco opens up
The chairman of Saudi Aramco, the world’s most profitable company according to many sources, has recently announced that market shares would be launched publicly for sale in the company, in a move that has both shocked and excited investors, and will dramatically change the face of this vitally important but shrouded titan of the oil industry. With a half yearly profit of $46.9 billion the currently state owned oil company is certainly an opportunity for private investors, despite only 1-2% of shares to be listed on the Riyadh stock exchange. With the largest oil reserves in the world, and most lucrative offshore drilling rights, Saudi Arabia has long been a focal point for the oil industry, but having previously been dominated by Aramco, this interest has only had limited interest for foreign companies such as BP and Shell. Now, as part of the Vision 2030 plan of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi government is looking to diversify its economy, and become less reliant on commodity pricing, most importantly in the price of crude oil.
There is good reason for these attempts at diversification, and also concern for investors. In September of this year, a drone attack on the Abqaiq oil facility, disrupted production of 5.7 million barrels of crude oil, blame for which was levelled at Iran despite Yemeni Houthi rebels claiming responsibility. It is undoubtedly a highly pressurised region, but the rewards for investors may be huge.
The Euro? Is it a failed experiment?
The Euro became legal tender on January 1st 1999. It has bothered people ever since. At first, the problem seemed to simply be the shock of something new, something experimental. It did take a while to adjust. There are, for example, several amusing stories of Italians being encouraged to go to France and pay more to exchange their Liras for new Euros because the French Euros were ‘worth more’ – after all, the Franc had been worth more than the Lira for decades. Alongside all of the shock and horror was also a sense of excitement as well. People across the continent were as amazed and euphoric about having a single unifying currency as the British were horrified by it – it was a new beginning where, following the unification of Germany, the fall of the Soviet Union and the up and coming accession of Eastern European states, Europe could start afresh, bolder and more confident.
A lot has changed since then. To start, almost none of the countries that joined the Euro, even the first ones, actually met the criteria. To add to that, the exchange rates were very favourable to some, such as Germany, and quite the opposite for others, such as Italy or Greece, and the animosity over this imbalance lingers today. But such imbalances are much more than simply sentiment. There are many good reasons to be angry at the Euro – especially if you’re a Southern European, watching Germany be the dominant exporter in the EU and worrying if it should use its billions in budget surplus while your economy struggles to stay afloat. All this said, for most, including many EU leaders and present and former ECB Presidents, it is clear that the Euro has had both symbolic and practical benefits. Perhaps no one symbolised this faith and optimism more than former ECB President Mario Draghi, who left office on November 1st this year. In his eight years as President of the Frankfurt based ECB he weathered the worst of the recent financial storms and famously pledged to ‘do whatever it takes’ to save the Euro in 2011 at the height of the crisis in Europe. Much of his recovery strategy centred on the somewhat controversial policy of Quantitative Easing and setting the ECB interest rates at below 0%, both in an effort to spur investment and keep inflation sustainable while also boosting confidence in the markets. While generally viewed as being fundamental to saving the Eurozone, such policies have left the Eurozone and wider European economy very vulnerable to trade shock, as is being experienced now, and left the ECB, now headed by former French finance minister and head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, with very few tools left in case of another recession.
So, does this leave the Euro doomed to fail? As much as that may well be the fantasy of several right wing nationalists or populists it is far from a likely scenario. For one, support for the common currency seems to be increasing, now stable at around 60% + according to the latest polls, though there are major discrepancies between the 19 Eurozone populations. More importantly, especially with the more politically savvy and well connected Lagarde, there are renewed hopes of progress. Lagarde, who, much like Draghi, seems determined to support the Euro, has made clear her intentions to push richer Northern European nations, such as the Netherlands or Germany, to use their surpluses to boost economic growth. In addition, she has often talked of the necessity to complete the ‘Banking Union’ and has even called, in line with Emmanuel Macron and Marion Draghi, for the creation of a common Eurozone budget with its own Minister. Such moves, if brought forward, are sure to not only make the Euro a more stable and viable currency, allowing it to even compete with the Dollar and Renminbi on the international stage, but could allow Europe a chance to make up the lost growth since the financial crash of 2008. For the first time in a long while, there might be light at the end of the tunnel for the Euro…
Sturgeon defiant in demand for place in election debate
Following the announcement that the Scottish National Party would not be given a place in the television election debate, Nicola Sturgeon their leader has hit back, accusing Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn of being afraid to debate her.
The frustration seen from the SNP leader is shared by nearly all political parties excluding the Tories and labour. In a controversial move ITV have planned a head-to-head debate with only Labour and Conservative representation. The speculation that in reality this limits the public to a debate between what is considered to be two Brexiteers has been made by the Lib-Dem President, not to mention the observation by their Leader Jo Swinson, that the UK does not have a two-party system of politics (as in the US).
Sturgeon herself has used this to springboard her push for Scottish independence, showing what is likely to be her main message for the election, an election she has called the most important in modern times. When recognising the fact that Scotland voted strongly to remain within the EU it is hard to disregard her point.
As part of her independence referendum push Sturgeon has said, “The Scotland we seek is open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive and no Tory is ever going to be allowed to change that”.