Nicola Sturgeon’s independence plan ‘in tatters’ after SNP’s £12bn economic ‘black hole’

Nicola Sturgeon slams UK government on publication of figures

Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to take Scotland out of the EU are gaining traction after the 20th consecutive poll put a Yes vote ahead last week. A PanelBase poll commissioned by The Times showed 52 percent of people in Scotland support IndyRef2. The poll puts the independence vote on 49 percent, with seven percent of voters undecided, meaning a referendum result with this breakdown would produce a 52 percent to 48 percent majority for secession. Ms Sturgeon’s SNP is also looking poised for a dominant victory in May’s Scottish elections, but doubts over Scotland’s economic prospects outside of the UK persist.

This wasn’t helped by a damning Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report, released in August 2019.

It outlined the performance of the Scottish economy for the financial year 2018/2019, and found total public spending in Scotland was £75.3 billion while money raised only reached £62.7billion.

Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack hit out at the figures.

He said: “Today’s GERS figures show clearly how Scotland benefits from being part of a strong UK with every man, woman and child in Scotland receiving a ‘Union dividend’ of nearly £2,000 a year.

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“These Scottish Government figures also show there would be a £12.6billion black hole at the centre of an independent Scotland’s finances. Real questions need to be asked about the First Minister’s stewardship of the country’s economy.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “These official SNP Government figures show that all of us in Scotland benefit from our place in the UK. The SNP’s economic blueprint is in tatters.

“It is beyond doubt that we are stronger in the UK, with the UK dividend worth nearly £2,000 to every person in Scotland. In an independent Scotland, the SNP would take that money out of families’ pockets.

“Our deficit is over six times higher than the entire UK, but our public services in Scotland are protected thanks to the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK.”

Then SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay tried to defend his party’s economic record.

He added: “With record tax revenues, strong economic growth and near record-low unemployment, Scotland’s economy and public finances are strong.

“Today’s figures show overall revenue in Scotland reached £62.7billion – exceeding £60billion for the first time – reflecting the strength of our economy.

“This strong performance from Scotland’s economy is at risk as a result of the UK Government’s EU exit plans, and in particular a ‘no deal’ Brexit, which poses a severe threat to jobs, investment and living standards.”

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The SNP came under scrutiny for another “black hole” a year before in 2018.

In 2013, the SNP suggested oil prices would be broadly stable for at least two years. However, the price of crude oil plunged.

At the time of the projections they were at £86 per barrel – and fell to £21 in 2016 before rising to £56 by 2018.

In 2018, the SNP published a Growth Commission report, with author Andrew Wilson admitting that the original 2014 White Paper had a robust oil price “baked into the numbers” but promised that a future referendum would be fought with North Sea revenues treated “as a proper windfall”.

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie MSP demanded that the First Minister and her party apologise for the “£30billion black hole”.

Despite the economic conundrums facing an independent Scotland, Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts told in December that Edinburgh could fare better than London if Scotland joins the EU.

He said: “As Ireland discovered, you can be an island and still be connected to the EU.

“The same reasoning could apply for Scotland, and I would assume the EU will have a smart economic policy so ultimately Scotland can have an economic benefit if it joins the EU.

“This would be likewise for Scotland leaving the UK, a political choice worth doing because of the assumption Scotland can be better off as part of the EU and can therefore benefit both economically and politically.

“When you see the way the Tory party disregards the judiciary, wants to get out of the European Convention on Human Rights, these are all arguments that can convince Scottish citizens to protect their basic freedoms.

“You can also see many Scots don’t feel respected by the UK Government.”

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