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Chief Secretary challenges lack of analysis in Scottish government white paper

In a letter to the Scottish government Finance Minister, Danny Alexander says fundamental questions around independence remain unanswered.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Scottish saltire flag and the Union Jack.
The Scottish saltire flag and the Union Jack. Image by PA.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has today (Wednesday 7 May) written to Scottish government Finance Minister John Swinney to challenge the lack of analysis in the Scottish government white paper and urge him to provide direct answers to the fundamental questions around independence that remain unanswered.

Specifically the letter challenges him [Swinney] to update the speculative figures used in the white paper for oil and gas revenues that have been proved to be particularly inflated.

In the letter the Chief Secretary says:

The analysis you have so far made public is threadbare and is the antithesis of a compelling case for breaking up a partnership that has worked effectively and to Scotland’s benefit for so many years.

Specifically, it is high time you updated the figures in your White Paper and provided for the first time your longer term fiscal projections for an independent Scotland, based upon updated and realistic oil and gas forecasts.

And goes on to say:

The weight of independent evidence is mounting that your sums simply do not add up. The CPPR, Citi group, the IFS - as well as HM Treasury’s own calculations - all put an independent Scotland’s deficit in 2016/17 above five per cent of GDP. The more optimistic forecast of Scotland’s deficit in your White Paper is not credible.

Your private memo to your Cabinet colleagues showed that you understand the costs, risks and uncertainties of independence and the benefits, stability and security of the UK.

If detailed information of this sort is good enough to share in secret with your Cabinet colleagues, why will you not trust the people of Scotland with detailed financial information about what the future would hold for a Scotland that was no longer part of the UK?

The letter concludes:

I hope very much that you will agree to publish up to date, realistic oil and gas forecasts, and to provide an up to date analysis of the costs and benefits and independence.

The people of Scotland deserve to have all the facts set out before we cast the most important vote we have ever cast – any attempt by you to conceal inconvenient economic truths will rightly be seen as an admission that your case does not stand up to scrutiny.

In the coming weeks the government will publish the most detailed analysis of the fiscal benefits to Scotland of remaining in the UK yet provided. The government will be very transparent about the assumptions on which all the financial modelling is based.

The Chief Secretary will give evidence to the Scottish Affairs committee on Wednesday.

Published 7 May 2014