The bombshell white paper released today by the Scottish Research Society, Much cost, little benefit: The economic consequences of Scottish separation, proves through careful economic analysis that independence could cost every Scottish household £3,500-£5,500 annually, plus another £500-£1,000 annually for every £100,000 borrowed on a mortgage.
Written by experienced economist Ewen Stewart of Walbrook Economics, he has combed through the Scottish Government’s own white paper, Scotland’s Future, along with other public records, and has concluded that Alex Salmond’s wishlist is at best, simply unaffordable, and at worst, could bankrupt Scotland.
Ten key points that Ewen Stewart raises:
• Scotland’s public spending is over 50% GDP, five percent higher than UK average. Spending is £1,267 a head higher than UK. An independent Scotland, dependent on a highly cyclical oil sector cannot maintain this. Either spending is cut, or taxes rise, or both.
• An independent Scotland would take on a national debt of £116billion, rising to £186billion including bank liabilities. How could we afford this?
• In 2012/13, an independent Scotland’s deficit would have been up to £17.1billion, or £3,226 per head.
• North Sea oil revenues can’t be our economic crutch. Since 2000, North Sea oil production has fallen by two-thirds from 4.5million barrels a day to 1.5million barrels a day. And more recently the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) downgraded its long-term North Sea oil tax projections by a massive £21billion.
• More than two-thirds of Scotland’s trade is with the rest of the UK – 4.5times more than Scotland’s trade with the rest of the EU combined. For this reason, maintaining a streamlined union and the Sterling is in Scotland’s interests.
• If an independent Scotland were allowed to retain the pound, they would have no say in a monetary policy set in the rest of the UK, nor would they be able to rely upon the protection of the Bank of England as a lender in times of financial difficulties.
• Without the safety net of the Bank of England, the Scottish banks would be forced to either relocate to London or to shrink their balance sheets, neither which is good, especially as shrinking the balance sheet would make it harder to get a mortgage, a loan or any sort of credit.
• The economic crash of 2008 would have bankrupted Scotland if it had been independent at the time.
• An independent Scotland would rely on state spending, volatile and declining oil resources, and a disproportionately large financial sector, making it one of the most unstable economies in Europe. Whereas, within the UK, Scotland benefits from the support of a larger, more diversified economy and the balance sheet of the UK treasury. Scotland’s population of 5.3million could not cope with a failure of the Scottish banking sector.
• Last year, Scotland raised £48.1billion in tax, including its per capita share of oil revenues and the Government spent £65.2billion. That’s a deficit of over £17billion or more that £7,100 for every household.
Ewen Stewart says, “The Scottish Government’s white paper, Scotland’s Future, is a vague wish-list of uncosted aspirations and ironically their proposals risk the very things they are trying to protect including employment, public spending and maintaining Sterling. Scottish separatism is mere romanticism. Scotland risks swapping the benefits of one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies, with a credible and respected bank, for token independence and one of the world’s largest annual fiscal deficits. Whatever the politics, whatever the emotion, whatever the Braveheart nationalism, economically speaking the case against separation is overwhelming. Financially speaking, Scotland and the United Kingdom are unquestionably better together.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Research Society says, “The future of Scotland has to be based on evidence and Ewen Stewart, using the Scottish Government’s own facts and figures, has proven that Alex Salmond simply cannot deliver what he’s promising. An aspirational wishlist is simply not good enough to convince voters to take a leap of faith into the unknown without a parachute. Voters deserve to be given the realistic truth about their options, rather than being served up romantic visions of their future. Salmond couldn’t even answer basic questions about oil, the currency union, and public spending in this week’s debate with Alistair Darling. With five weeks to go before the referendum on September 18th, Salmond can’t continue to run away from these issues and fob off voters. He can’t answer the tough questions because the truth will be the nail in the coffin for his independence campaign.”