September 18th 2014 | Scotland

Green shoots and leaves

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 15 August 2014

It is always slightly worrying to see an economic recovery hailed as a ‘miracle’ – rather than the result of a conscious, rational strategy.

We have watched false ‘green shoots’ of recovery wilt in the past and like the announcement that one of Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas is pregnant (the female one), the news seems too good to be true.

This is because, again like a pregnant panda, it has been so long since anyone saw one we could be in danger of forgetting what they look like.

But still, the jobs data from the ONS looks good, with UK unemployment at its lowest since 2008 (6.4 per cent).  

In Scotland the news is even better, with employment levels 0.5 per cent higher (73.5 per cent) than across the UK (73 per cent) – the highest since record began.

The figures are promising but they may not be as straightforward as they appear.

The difficulty is that it may be some time before much of the population feels the benefits from the pick-up in growth, with the Bank of England this week halving its projections for wage rises.

Just today it was announced that Ferguson Shipbuilders, the last shipbuilders on the Lower Clyde, has gone into receivership.

Also, the ONS’ idea of employment is a pretty loose one, including anyone doing one hour or more of paid work a week, or those in government training programmes or work experience. The definition of employment even includes “unpaid family workers.”

Still, even if the definition is warped it is better to have good warped figures than bad ones.

On the face of it this should be good news for the Tories and by connection the Better Together campaign, which will be able to claim credit (even if you still can’t get any at the bank) for rising job numbers.

But the growth in Scotland alongside the spin from both sides complicates things.

After all who is to say what caused the growth? Did George Osborne’s tough medicine finally work? Or do better figures in Scotland mean we should all vote Yes?

Both Yes and Better Together will claim credit.

Meanwhile the panda pregnancy is great news for everyone, except inhuman monsters and Tories, who will have to put up with even more derision about being outnumbered by the most incompetent procreators in all creation.

Yes that tired joke about there being more pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland just got 33 per cent funnier (25 per cent if it has twins).

So some will inevitably question the job figures. Some will be sceptical about the chances of Scotland finally getting a baby panda. Others will even question whether the two topics are related.

But it is when Salmond or Darling starts taking credit for the panda pregnancy that you should really start to worry.

Liam Kirkaldy