Scottish independence: The Scottish Government “airbrushed” the global financial crash from its official case for independence to avoid showing Scots would have been thousands of pounds worse off outside the UK, Labour said last night.
Ministers said the collapse which hit in 2008 was omitted from the 670-page Scotland’s Future white paper because of the “temporary effect” it had on the long-term economic picture.
The flagship blueprint for independence, unveiled in November, claims each Scot would have been £900 better off in recent decades with independence if the economy had matched other small European countries.
The Scottish Government’s figures cover 1977 to 2007. But new figures published by Holyrood’s independent financial scrutiny unit yesterday cover the most recent 1982-2012 period and show that Scots would be about £2,500 worse off.
The First Minister insisted yesterday that Scotland would have been £12 billion better off on its own in the past five years than under London rule.
But he was accused of “handpicking” statistics to suit his own case and ignoring the most up-to-date picture, during heated exchanges at First Minister’s Questions yesterday.
Labour leader Johann Lamont said afterwards: “To try to make their figures work, the SNP have tried to airbrush the banking crisis out of their figures.
“Any other period you choose, whether it’s the last 10, 20 or 30 years, by the SNP’s own measure, Scotland has been clearly better off by being within the UK.
“So they suppress the real numbers, add in the early years of Thatcher and don’t expect [anyone] to notice that they have fiddled the figures.”
The financial crash had a major impact on Scotland and saw the country’s two biggest banks – Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland – bailed out by the UK Treasury after falling victim to the sub-prime mortgage scandal.
Labour say the SNP figures stretch back to the late 1970s to take in the early Thatcher years, when Scottish industry was “decimated” and the gap was widest compared to the other small European countries selected in the white paper.
But Mr Salmond insisted that the most up-to-date figures are contained in a GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland) report which is published every year. “Over the last five years, Scotland would be £12bn relatively better off if we had managed our own resources than being run under the London government,” he said.
“Now, £12bn is a great deal of money – that could have been used to invest in the Scottish economy, to promote Scottish jobs, to borrow less, it could have been used to start an oil fund.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said the period 1977 to 2007 was used in the white paper because of the “temporary effect of the recession”.
He said: “We were looking at long-term trend, and the long-term trend omits that volatile period – it is generally accepted it was a very unusual event – and it would not have allowed a fair comparison.”
The Scottish Government later produced figures showing the 30-year average GDP growth rate for Scotland up to 2012 within the UK is 2.3 per cent, compared to 2.5 per cent for comparable European countries.
A spokesman for finance secretary John Swinney said: “That equates to an estimated £8.5bn lost from the economy. That is a measure of the price Scotland is paying by remaining in the UK.”
Tory finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: “Often the SNP’s facts and figures appear to come from a different planet.”