Scottish independence: Darling oil reliance warning

Alistair Darling says a Yes vote will mean 6bn of cuts. Picture: John Devlin

Alistair Darling says a Yes vote will mean 6bn of cuts. Picture: John Devlin

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AN INDEPENDENT Scotland’s “over reliance” on falling oil and gas revenues means the poorest will suffer most after independence, Better Together chief Alistair Darling has said.

It came as the SNP government hinted that the industry could enjoy tax breaks after a Yes vote.

On a trip to Aberdeen yesterday the former chancellor said the North Sea has made a “massive contribution” to Scotland’s economy and supported hundreds of thousands of jobs.

He said: “The industry continues to do well because we have the broad shoulders of the larger UK economy needed to invest in its future.

“But I don’t want to risk the future of our health service and pensions on a volatile and declining resource like oil.

“I don’t want to put the money we have to spend on our schools and hospitals at risk. The best route out of poverty, and the best way to give our young people the best chance in life, is to invest in our education services and our NHS.

“The stark reality is that independence would mean £6 billion worth of cuts to our public services like schools and hospitals. That’s £6bn over and above any austerity happening today.”

Mr Darling was in the Granite City for a business breakfast organised by industry body Oil & Gas UK, which was also addressed by Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing.

He hinted that the North Sea oil industry could benefit from new tax breaks if the SNP comes to power in an independent Scotland.

Mr Ewing said it was “crystal clear” that if changes to the tax regime were not made, the hunt for oil would move to other parts of the world where extracting it would be cheaper.

He argued that “in order to maximise the economic recovery, future governments will require to play their part in considering what tax changes are necessary to play in maximising economic recovery”.

He claimed it was a “scandal” that UK governments had failed to establish an oil fund, saying they had instead treated the sector as a “great big cash machine”.

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