There can be few finer examples of glass-half-empty pessimism than Peter Jones’ article on the “cost of independence” (Perspective, 24 June).
Independence would, he writes, mean “leaving the fiscal union”, which he says is the mechanism by which the UK compensates Scotland (via welfare payments) for having monetary policies geared to the south-east of England, at a cost of Scottish jobs.
I have rarely heard a more perverse argument against independence: “Stay in the Union and we’ll give you welfare to make up for our policies that mean you don’t have jobs.”
Even if we retain sterling (and therefore a common interest rate) after independence, a Yes vote will give us access to the crucial fiscal levers currently held by Westminster, allowing us to tailor economic management to Scotland’s needs much more than is currently the case.
But not only does Mr Jones manage to contort a weakness of the Union into a reason to vote No, he manages to turn Scotland’s natural advantages into a problem.
Our oil, he says, will make our economy more volatile and therefore increase our borrowing costs. That might be the case if we had oil and little else, but – as Standard and Poor said – even without oil we are one of the richest nations around.
Countries such as Ireland, Czech Republic and Latvia –without the natural resources with which Scotland has been blessed – have lower borrowing costs than the UK.
Why would Scotland, with a strong and diverse economy, with oil as the icing on the cake, be any different? To suggest that oil somehow weakens Scotland’s economy in comparison with other nations stretches credibility to breaking point.
I think Colin Hamilton (Letters, 25 June) will find that the most senior civil servant at the Treasury, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, has already publicly admitted the costs announced by the Treasury to set up and independent Scotland were badly wrong.
Sir Nicholas conceded that the Treasury had “misbriefed” on a key statistic when it said that the costs would be £2.7 billion.
Following this mistake, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, infamously tried to claim on Radio Scotland that Professor Patrick Dunleavy’s work at the London School of Economics had not been “part of the building blocks” of the Treasury report and the figure he announced for costs had magically dropped to £1.5bn.
For his part, Professor Dunleavy said that the Treasury had taken his figure and “made it ludicrous”. He further added: “It is very important if you are contributing to a public debate, to contribute accurate information and not as in this case, I’m afraid very crude misinformation.”
I think Mr Hamilton will also find if he reads the relevant reports that the figure quoted of £200 million comes from work carried out by Professor Dunleavy and is not “plucked out of the air” by the SNP.
The figure of £900m relates largely to ongoing departmental costs, the great majority of which would have to be paid to the UK Government anyway for departmental services by Scotland if we vote No.
Therefore as such, they should not be seen as wholly additional costs.
From the point of view of supporters of independence some good has come out of this debacle in that increasing numbers of people will find it very difficult to take seriously anything said by Treasury and its mouthpiece, Danny Alexander.