Independence Debate, Independence Referendum
Published: 07/07/2014 15:15 - Updated: 09/07/2014 13:42

Independence debate - Q&A

Richard Laird, SNP deputy leader in Highland
Richard Laird, SNP deputy leader in Highland

We have enlisted Mary Scanlon, Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands and Richard Laird, deputy leader of the SNP group in Highlands and Islands, to answer your questions.

Email d.macallister@spp-group.com

This question for our mini-panel is on finance

Q: The UK debt is forecast to be £1.548 billion, or £60,000 per household, by 2018. Given the SNP’s predictions about Scotland’s future oil wealth, and it’s pledge to borrow money to remove David Cameron’s austerity measures, couldn’t it be argued that Scotland would be better off going it alone?

A: Richard Laird

During 2013, Scotland produced goods and services worth £148 billion. At £27,800 per person, that makes us the 14th wealthiest country in the world. This puts us four places higher than the UK, which had a GDP per person of £25,000. Over the last five years, each of us has contributed an average of £10,000 in tax, while the UK average over the same period was only £8,700. For the last few years, both Scotland and the UK have spent more than has been raised in tax. That said, Scotland’s deficit has averaged only 7.2% of GDP while the UK’s has averaged 8.4%, showing that our public finances are stronger than those of the UK."

"UK economic policy focuses on the needs of the City of London and south-east England. Our economy has other needs and possibilities which require a different approach. We have a £32 billion rural and island economy; a £17 billion construction industry; a £13 billion food and drink industry; a £9 billion tourism industry; and a £2.8 billion creative industries sector. We also have 25% of Europe’s potential wind and tidal energy and 10% of its potential wave energy, as well as 98.8% of the UK’s offshore oil production. Scotland’s economy is a vibrant and diverse one with a potential to grow that requires a different approach to that favoured by the UK Government. With independence, we can flourish."

Veteran MSP Mary Scanlon
Veteran MSP Mary Scanlon

A: Mary Scanlon

"Even the Scottish Government’s most pessimistic projections for oil tax receipts are higher than many in the industry would suggest, and Alex Salmond’s own economic adviser has conceded this. We are so lucky to have THE oil resource, but it is too volatile to base an entire economy on. In order to sell its vision, Nationalists have blown out of all proportion the oil cash an independent Scotland would receive. Within the UK, if the price of oil falls the sheer size of the whole economy could take that hit. The same could never be said for a separate Scotland whose fortunes would be largely dependent on it.

The UK Government is taking brave steps to sort the country’s finances out which has not been easy. It is the right thing to do to pay back our debts and grow the economy. The United Kingdom is now the fastest growing economy in the EU. The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies has warned that the SNP would have to tighten its belt should Scotland separate from the UK. The SNP answer to all colonic problems is to borrow more - the very tactic that got us in the economic mess in the first place. This approach ignores the fact an independent Scotland may face higher borrowing rates, and that’s if anyone wants to lend to a new state which has threatened to default on previous debts."

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