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Independent Scotland will flourish, says economist

Professor John Kay is a former adviser to Alex Salmond. Picture: Greg Macvean

Professor John Kay is a former adviser to Alex Salmond. Picture: Greg Macvean

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

A FORMER economic adviser to Alex Salmond has argued that Scotland would thrive after independence, with Edinburgh acting as its “dominant” economic centre.

Professor John Kay said Scotland was wealthy enough to survive without the same level of UK support that he claimed Wales and Northern Ireland would need to separate.

He used a lecture in Edinburgh last night to claim that an independent Scotland would be a “rich country” because of high growth and incomes, which he said were at similar levels to those in the rest of the UK.

Prof Kay claimed Scotland was the wealthiest part of the UK outside London and the south-east of England as he delivered his lecture on “the economics of Scottish independence” for the alumni of St John’s College Oxford at the Royal Society of Edinburgh last night.

He said: “When I compare Scotland with the UK as a whole, there doesn’t seem to be much difference. Economically, Scotland looks like the UK as a whole.

“Income per head in Scotland is close to the UK average. Over the last 50 years it has moved in a range from 90 per cent to 100 per cent of the UK average.

“The nadir was reached in the 1960s, when that figure dipped briefly below 90 per cent. The peak was reached in the 1990s, when it approached 100 per cent and since then has fallen back slightly.

“That makes Scotland the richest part of the United Kingdom outside London and the south-east of England.

“The growth rate of Scotland has been slightly lower than that of the UK, but that difference is accounted for more or less entirely by slower population growth in Scotland.”

The economist, a member of Mr Salmond’s panel of economic advisers from 2007 to 2010, argued Scotland had an “economically dominant capital” in Edinburgh, in the same way that England has a strong financial centre in London, dismissing suggestions it would be heavily reliant on the public sector to create jobs and support the economy.

He said: “Scotland could be an independent country and a rich country. Scotland is not in the same position as Wales or Northern Ireland, both of which would find it very difficult to operate economically without support mechanisms from the United Kingdom.”

“The industrial structure of Scotland is also similar to that of the UK. A myth often heard is that Scotland is much more dependent on public sector employment than the UK.

“But Scotland also looks rather like the UK in another sense. The country has an economically dominant capital city just as the UK does.”

However Labour MSP Richard Baker, a director of the Better Together campaign, said Prof Kay’s speech lacked any real evidence. He said: “Scotland’s economy is far stronger within the UK, when we all work together. Many people hearing this speech will be struck by the lack of any real evidence put forward.”

‘This is the phoney war – the real game hasn’t started yet’

ALEX Salmond has claimed the campaign for independence has yet to begin, saying Yes Scotland was engaged in a “phoney war” at the moment.

The First Minister said the Yes campaign was merely “clearing the ground” for the real battle.

Responding to polls suggesting only about a third of Scots support independence, Mr Salmond criticised Better Together’s negativity and claimed the No campaign was already running out of steam. “This is the phoney war,” he said. “This is not the campaign. I went into an election [for the Scottish Parliament] in 2011 20 points behind in the polls and ended up 15 in front. The real game hasn’t even started. We are just clearing the ground.”

In an interview with a magazine, Mr Salmond also admitted he had feelings of Britishness. “One of the great attractions of Scottish nationalism is it’s very much a multilayered identity. It’s never been sensible to tell people they have only one to choose… Scottishness is my primary identity but I’ve got Britishness and a European identity.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary William Hague will claim today that foreign nations are “baffled” over why Scotland would want to leave the Union, as he uses a speech in Scotland to back the No case.

In the address in Edinburgh, Mr Hague will also warn that an independent Scotland would lose access to UK expertise in intelligence and security.

SEE ALSO

David Torrance: A haven of autonomy?

Simon Howie: Independence can beef up key industries

Tavish Scott: Will SNP recognise councils’ rights?

 

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