SNP pressed on cost of independence

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The Treasury has stepped up calls for the Scottish Government to set out what the start-up costs for an independent Scotland would be, branding the administration’s recently-published analysis of the country’s finances “wholly inadequate”.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has written to John Swinney, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, to formally request that the government in Edinburgh “publish its detailed assessments of the cost of establishing or reforming the departments and organisations that would be required in a new Scottish state”.

Mr Alexander accused the SNP administration of making the case for leaving the UK on a “false prospectus” and asked: “How can you possibly expect people to buy your case for independence when you can’t, or won’t, disclose the price?”

But a spokeswoman for Mr Swinney said Mr Alexander has been ”caught red-handed cooking the books” on the country’s finances.

The latest row comes after days of debate over an independent Scotland’s financial position.

On Wednesday, both sides published conflicting reports on the economic impact of independence in a bid to persuade voters to back them in September’s referendum.

First Minister Alex Salmond said people could be £1,000 a year better off in 15 years as a result of an “independence bonus”.

But Mr Alexander said remaining in the union would give everyone in Scotland an annual £1,400 “UK dividend” and he challenged the Scottish Government to “come clean with people that there is a significant cost to setting up a new state”.

In his new letter to Mr Swinney, the Treasury Chief Secretary said: “The analysis the Scottish Government has published this week on Scotland’s finances is wholly inadequate.

“Your position, as I understand it, is that people in Scotland should vote in September without any proper estimate from you of the costs of setting up a new state.

“This is deeply unsettling for voters worried about the huge uncertainties of independence. It is also simply untenable. How can you possibly expect people to buy your case for independence when you can’t, or won’t, disclose the price?”

He said Mr Swinney had personally indicated previously that work was being done on this issue by Scottish Government civil servants.

“I am writing to formalise the request that the Scottish Government publish its detailed assessments of the cost of establishing or reforming the departments and organisations that would be required in a new Scottish state,” Mr Alexander said.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, told Mr Swinney he “must not continue to suppress” the information.

He wrote: “Your resistance in the face of repeated calls to publish: realistic oil forecasts and growth assumptions; credible fiscal projections; and any detailed assessment of the costs of creating a new state and the policies you propose for it, means that you are now making your case for independence on a false prospectus.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Swinney accused the Treasury of producing “bogus figures” and called for an apology to an academic.

Analysis released earlier in the week had cited a possible cost of £2.7 billion for setting up a new state, but Professor Patrick Dunleavy, of the London School of Economics, told the Financial Times this was “bizarrely inaccurate”.

The spokeswoman said: “Danny Alexander is trying to mask the fact he has been caught red-handed this week cooking the books on independence – both he and the Treasury must now apologise to the academic whose work they so grossly misrepresented, and withdraw their bogus figures.

“Scotland is among the wealthiest countries per head in the world, and we need the powers of independence to ensure that wealth creates a fairer society.”

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