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
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower