Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “gerrymandering” her economic case for independence after publishing an analysis that argued Scotland’s huge public spending deficit was irrelevant and omitted her own Government’s performance.
The First Minister unveiled a study, written by her civil servants, which argued that a range of small countries were wealthier and fairer than the UK on a range of measures, and this showed Scotland would be better off independent.
They included Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands. However, the report neglected to mention any poorer small countries such as Portugal, Greece or the Czech Republic.
The document also only contained figures for the UK as a whole and not Scotland, where Ms Sturgeon’s Government already has significant powers over many of the areas concerned.
For example, the report attacks the UK for having relatively low expenditure on research and development, while failing to mention responsibility for this was devolved to the Scottish Government.
It also criticised the UK’s income inequality and poverty levels compared to other countries, while failing to mention that Ms Sturgeon’s Government could tackle these issues now using its extensive tax and benefit powers.
In another extraordinary assertion, the analysis argued that Scotland’s notional deficit – the difference between taxes raised and spending – did not matter.
The financial black hole more than doubled to 22.4 per cent of GDP last year – around double anywhere else in Europe and more than seven times the three per cent limit required for EU membership.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said this would provide an indication of an independent Scotland’s finances on day one, but the analysis said: “That tells us nothing about how Scotland would perform as an independent country and is, in any case, an argument for change, not against it.”
Kevin Hague, chairman of the pro-Union think tank These Islands, attacked the “puerile” conclusion, tweeting: “So on day one a new economy will be born, old industries will evaporate, public spending will be reset to zero, the tax base will dissolve & reform?”
‘Statistical gerrymandering presented as analysis’
He said the comparisons with other small countries represented “statistical gerrymandering presented as analysis” and argued the “overarching logic is flawed”.
“They attribute all differences in performance to independence, as if that’s the only difference between Scotland and their carefully chosen comparator countries,” he said.
He added: “One could just as easily answer that ‘what these other countries have that Scotland does not’ is ‘governments focused on making life better for their citizens today rather than investing all their energy into stoking grievance and driving separation.'”
Mr Hague also highlighted how the paper attacked the “higher barriers imposed to trade with Europe” while backing separation and a potential hard border with the rest of the UK, which accounts for three times more Scottish trade than the EU.
But, launching the paper, Ms Sturgeon said: “The evidence is overwhelming that these countries now and over time perform better than the UK to get to these countries, many of them smaller or similarly sized to us.
“Scotland under Westminster control is being held back. With independence, we too will have the levers and the autonomy that these countries take for granted to help fulfil their potential.”
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )