Scottish independence: Government uses Lego to build a case for a No vote

Cabinet Office publishes series of 'awful' pictures showing Scots what the so-called UK dividend of £1,400 can buy

As an attempt to put the Government’s case against dismantling the United Kingdom it was as embarrassing as your Dad on the dancefloor.

Someone in the Cabinet Office thought it would be clever to post on Buzzfeed a set of pictures and captions to illustrate what independence might cost the Scots.

It was so bad that the website itself published the list under the headline: “The UK Government Has Done A List On Scottish Independence And It’s Awful”.

The unusual move followed a financial analysis published by the Treasury last week, which calculated that the financial benefit for the people of Scotland of staying in the UK – the so-called UK dividend – is approximately £1,400 per year per head.

The problem for those campaigning for a No has been to convince people that warnings like this are genuine, rather than what the SNP leader Alex Salmond has called the “scaremongering” and “bluff and bluster” of those opposed to independence.

But someone at the Cabinet Office decided the way to ram home the point was to tell the Scots what £1,400 can buy, with illustrations featuring pieces of Lego. The list began with “an overseas holiday for two with cash leftover for sun cream”. Other possibilities were: “Scoff 280 hot dogs at the Edinburgh Festival” and “Watch Aberdeen play all season with two mates – with a few pies and Bovrils thrown in.”

Another was “go for one haircut a month for over three and half years... you can go for significantly more if you’re a man!”

Some of the early reactions to the post came from people who wondered whether it was a genuine government press release. Other Twitter reactions were scathing.

Mark Ferguson, who edits the Labourlist website, tweeted: “Actual people in the actual government actually thought this nonsense would persuade Scotland to stay in the union.” Another Twitter user asked: “Would £1400 cover the severance payment for whichever idiot decided this would be a good government press release?”

* An overseas holiday for two with cash leftover for sun cream. Average cost: £680 per person for a 10-day jaunt.

* Pay for Christmas presents twice over, with some money left over to spend on Hogmanay celebrations. Average spend on Christmas in Scotland: £610.

* Hop on the bus between Glasgow and Edinburgh (and back) 127 times. That’s the equivalent of a daily commute for more than 5 and half months. Average cost: £11 for a return ticket.

* Cover your family’s yearly shoe habit for about the next six years. Average annual household spend on footwear in Scotland: £234.

* Fill up your fuel tank for the whole year with money left over for an MOT and a few trips to the car wash.  Average household spend on petrol/diesel for personal transport in Scotland: £1123.20, average MOT costs: £29.65- £124.50.

* Experience 636 joyful caffeine highs. Average cost: £2.20 for a medium cappuccino.

* Share a meal of fish and chips with your family every day for around 10 weeks, with a couple of portions of mushy peas thrown in. Average cost of fish and chips in UK: £4.74 per portion, based on family of four sharing meal.

* Pay off your energy bills in full over the year. Average household cost in Scotland: £1,211.60 per year.

* And you’ll still have enough left over for endless hugs with everyone to celebrate being in the UK. And if you’re still in need of a reason to smile, go to Inverness – it’s the second happiest place in the kingdom.

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