Scottish independence: MPs set to 'pour scorn' on SNP finance plans

Renationalising independent Scotland's Royal Mail will be tricky, and charging UK students will be illegal, says committee

An influential committee of MPs is set to "pour scorn" on two key financial claims made by the Scottish independence campaign this week. Plans by the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) to renationalise the Royal Mail north of the border would be excessively expensive, a report by the House of Commons Business Select Committee will conclude. It is also expected to say charging students coming from the rest of the UK to study in Scotland would break European Union law.

The conclusions will help ignite the independence debate which will also witness the first live debate on STV between Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, and Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, who heads the "Better Together" campaign. With just 44 days to go before next month's vote, it is expected that Mr Salmond will attempt to woo voters and make up the 14 per cent gap in the opinion polls which suggest the pro-Union Better Together movement should comfortably win.

The select committee's full report examining the business implications of Scottish independence is expected to be published later this week. It is understood it will reject the SNP's argument that it could continue to charge English, Welsh and Northern Irish students attending Scotland's universities. The charges will bring the Scottish administration an additional £62m a year in 2014-15.

However, as a separate EU state, Scotland could no longer only charge the rest-of-the-UK students tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year while those from Scotland and elsewhere in the EU pay nothing, according to legal experts. Under EU rules, there can be different charging regimes only for students within the same state. "That's not a sustainable income stream up north," said a source close to the committee.

Mr Salmond has also pledged to renationalise the Scottish part of the Royal Mail after the coalition privatised the five-century-old service last year. In June, the select committee accused the Government and its advisers of undervaluing the Royal Mail by about £1bn when shares were first sold on the London Stock Exchange in October.

The MPs will conclude this means it will be much costlier for Scotland to buy back its share of Royal Mail. Scotland is also a particularly expensive area to run the universal service, as postal workers are delivering mail to remote locations.

"The distribution and mail centre costs are high because of the distance," said a member of the committee. "How you could renationalise the Royal Mail without higher subsidies or prices has not been explained. I think there are a lot of difficult questions for the SNP."

Several of the MPs on the committee, which is chaired by Labour MP Adrian Bailey, are also "extremely irritated" that Scotland Finance Secretary John Swinney did not give evidence. He was due to attend, but diary clashes initially delayed his hearing and Mr Swinney is said to have eventually decided against appearing before the parliamentary committee.

A spokesman for Mr Swinney said: "The fact a Westminster committee of anti-independence MPs has chosen to attack such policies speaks volumes. It is the Scottish Government's commitment to vital public services – and the parallel threat to such services from Westminster's privatisation agenda, including to the NHS – that is seeing more and more people deciding to vote Yes to an independent Scotland."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all