One of Nicola Sturgeon’s leading economic advisers has questioned the economic case made for Scottish independence during the 2014 referendum campaign.
Andrew Wilson, the former MSP chairing the SNP’s growth commission, said oil revenues had been “baked into the numbers” supporting the nationalist case, contradicting claims North Sea income would simply be a “bonus” to an independent Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s white paper on independence estimated that oil revenues would be between £6.8 billion and £7.9 billion by 2016/17. Since then, the oil price has dropped from over $100 a barrel to less than $60, and rising costs of extraction mean North Sea oil cost the Treasury £24 million last year, compared to a £2.15 billion surplus in 2014/15.
Mr Wilson, who will deliver his report on the economy of an independent Scotland within weeks, suggested Yes campaigners were wrong to say “oil was a bonus and not the basis” of their case.
“But we did have oil baked into the numbers and it was indeed a basis,” he told the BBC. “So I can say with some certainty in terms of our own work that we’ll assume for the purposes of our projections that oil is producing zero revenues and therefore treat any revenues that we get from oil as a proper windfall to be used on inter-generational projects rather than spent on spending today.”
He added: “I guess that’s why oil’s not a particularly helpful argument - because it gives the suggestion that somehow there’s a free lunch and that we won’t have to work, and of course we all will have to work no matter what happens..”