Scots lay claim to tiger economy

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The Independent Online
Scotland would be transformed into one of the wealthiest "tiger" economies if the Union was ditched, the Scottish National Party conference was told yesterday.

A new SNP document, The Economic Case for Independence, insisted that Scotland is paying an annual surplus of pounds 400m to the UK. This is a direct contradiction of government figures which currently claim that the Union subsidises Scotland by about pounds 8bn.

John Swinney, the SNP's treasury spokesman, told the conference that Scotland, as a small resource-rich country, would thrive if independent. "Of the 35 richest countries in the world, 25 have populations of less than 10 million - and few have Scotland's wealth of resources," he said. And in a theme that will clearly be reinforced between now and the election campaigns Fergus Ewing, the party's business spokesman, argued that independence "would give us the power to unleash economic potential and transform Scotland from an under-achieving part of the UK into one of Europe's wealthiest and most dynamic tiger economies".

Turning an pounds 8bn subsidy into a pounds 400m surplus has involved the SNP sharply challenging government statistics on everything from North Sea oil revenue to local business rates. The largest amount is accounted for by the claim that by removing Scotland's share of the UK's current public overdraft, which they estimate pounds 50bn, the Scottish subsidy could be cut in half. The Nationalists' document also claims that increasing revenues from North Sea oil will deliver an extra billion a year on top of current estimates.

It also claims that since 1979 Scotland under the Union has lost out on 20 per cent of potential economic growth.

However, the descriptions of a tiger economy and the accountancy methods used in the SNP's independence argument were attacked yesterday by the Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown as "a Brigadoon budget" - a reference to a mythical kingdom. Mr Brown branded the SNP's sums as "wish-list politics, a list of promises no one can afford to deliver".

Under Alex Salmond's leadership the SNP has tried to behave like a party seeking to win a post-independence election. Instead of merely estimating Scotland's wealth and laying down the moral and political arguments for independence, Mr Salmond has played the role of would-be prime minister and chancellor. Yesterday's document continued that pattern, saying how an SNP government would spend its wealth.

Mr Brown continued his attack on the SNP's shopping list as "Alex in wonderland". He said: "Under Alex Salmond's independence budget total spending climbed by pounds 5,500 million, an extra spending commitment of pounds 1,000 for every Scot. But without the income to make ends meet."