Economic case against Scottish independence 'even more stark' than in 2014, says Douglas Ross
Tory leader Douglas Ross has echoed the conclusion of a new study predicting that Scottish independence would create a “large hole” in the nation’s stretched public finances.
Mr Ross commented while on the campaign trail in Moray, and ahead of his visit to Edinburgh on Monday – in the run-up to the Holyrood election on May 6.
Analysis from the Financial Times published today has determined that a major deterioration in Scotland’s fiscal position since the independence referendum in 2014 suggests it will face a persistent deficit of nearly 10 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) if it leaves the UK by the middle of this decade.
The newspaper added that the nation has seen its budget deficit widened by lower-than-expected tax revenues, Brexit and the coronavirus crisis – and reducing its GDP deficit from about 10 per cent to a “manageable” 3 per cent would require raising taxes or slashing public spending annually by the equivalent of £1,765 per person in the period after exiting the UK.
Mr Ross said when asked his views on the findings that they reiterate the point made by many in 2014 that the economic case to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK was “deeply flawed” – and is “even more stark” now than it was then.
He added that it comes off the back of data from The Institute for Fiscal Studies regarding the additional support Scotland has received compared to England during the pandemic.
Mr Ross said the SNP and the nationalist plans for another independence referendum would see a “massive” hole in Scotland’s public finances should it leave the UK, a gap that “could only be made up by tax increases or massive cuts to services people rely on day in day out”.
His comments come after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week said a second Scottish independence vote could be held while the nation is still trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Ross said at the time: “Nicola Sturgeon talks of Alex Salmond being a betting man, but she’s willing to gamble Scotland’s recovery on a reckless plan to break up the country.”
He now says people will now look at the FT’s “stark figures and the desire for the nationalists to hold another reckless referendum during our recovery, and think they've got their priorities all wrong”.
Mr Ross continued: “We should be focused on rebuilding Scotland after the pandemic, getting our education system back up the international league tables, supporting the NHS, protecting jobs, getting young people into work or apprenticeships, and providing opportunities, not more division.”
He also said earlier this week that the Scottish Conservatives could withdraw their own candidates to give other unionist parties a boost in the Holyrood elections and stem the progress of Alex Salmond’s new pro-independence party Alba.
Separately, a report into the implications of Scotland re-joining the EU if it became independent has said Scotland would become a customs and regulatory border for the EU and as a result would need to close the border with England.