SBUK Independence audit report Square 16.03.23

The next First Minister must come clean on the true cost of independence

THE SNP LEADERSHIP campaign is supposedly all about change, but really offers nothing new. All three candidates persist with the fundamentally dishonest prospectus for breaking up the UK that has been the nationalist leitmotif ever since the 2014 referendum campaign.

In particular they offer a painless prescription for the economy, taxpayers and business that each of them must know is misleading. After all, the hard data is there – on finance, trade, and the currency – collected for them every year by the civil servants who work for the Sottish government on their behalf.

Until now, however, what has never been attempted is a whole-economy analysis of the impact of independence, aggregating all the abundant evidence to see what would happen to jobs, public spending and output.

To fill this gap, Scottish Business UK (SBUK), of which I am CEO, commissioned a study to measure exactly that. Independence Uncovered was published last month and its findings make an essential contribution to the debate.

First of all, some parameters. We wanted the study to leave as little open to argument as possible. With that in mind it uses just data and methodology that is widely accepted by the nationalist movement. The GERS fiscal dataset is collected by Scottish Government economists using accepted statistical methods. Even Nicola Sturgeon admits it gives an authoritative picture of Scotland’s finances. The trade impacts were measured using the same methods deployed by the Scottish Government in their assessment of Brexit trade costs. The study errs on the side of caution on all of this and more, giving the nationalists the benefit of the doubt on issues such as defence and energy.

As a result, the outcomes are probably an underestimate. They do not take into account important factors such as the likely behavioural change of taxpayers on independence, because there is no hard data on this that is accepted by all sides.

Further, we commissioned an economist, Richard Marsh, who has an unimpeachable record of work in this field not just with the Scottish Government but even the SNP itself.

The results make sober reading for anyone concerned with Scotland’s future. Leaving the Union would cost at least a quarter of a million jobs and shrink Scotland’s GDP by more than 10%. The study shows that significant reductions in public spending, even if partly offset by tax rises, would hit Scotland’s most deprived communities hardest. Around seven percent of jobs in Dundee and West Dunbartonshire would be lost through reduced public spending.

Meanwhile some of our most successful industries and regions, from Aberdeenshire to Edinburgh and Glasgow, would suffer heavily. Overall potential job cuts are also analysed by industry sector, revealing that taking Scotland out of the UK would hammer key industries and the financial services sector (down £4.7bn and 18,000 jobs and retail (down £0.6bn and 10,000 jobs).

The impact of leaving the UK would result in a loss of 44,000 jobs from Glasgow, 41,000 from Edinburgh, 17,000 from Aberdeen and 14,000 from Fife.

Anyone familiar with the facts and arguments around independence should know intuitively that these results are broadly in line with the data that has been widely available for years now. That includes the SNP leadership.

It behoves whoever becomes Scotland’s First Minister to come clean with the country and explain how the heavy economic cost our nation would face on day one of their ambitions being achieved would be addressed.

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