One of Alex Salmond’s economic advisers has produced figures suggesting that the Scottish Government’s oil revenue forecasts are out by around £2 billion.
In evidence to Holyrood’s finance committee, Professor Andrew Hughes Hallett – a key member of Alex Salmond’s Council of Economic Advisers – said “it would be reasonable to expect North Sea oil revenues to rise to £4.5-5bn [per year] between 2016-20”.
Last week, the government released a paper claiming oil revenues would be £6.9bn for 2016-17 – which the SNP says would be the first year of independence.
At First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP challenged Mr Salmond to explain the £2bn discrepancy in the figures.
The government claims that Prof Hughes Hallett’s figures were submitted before its oil paper was published last week.
Ms Davidson said: “Numerous experts have questioned Alex Salmond’s inflated oil figures, but his knee-jerk response is to say that everyone else is wrong.
“Now, the First Minister’s own expert adviser has said his oil revenue estimates are £2bn short.
“This is the same man who Alex Salmond has said is part of a group which contains the ‘most formidable intellectual firepower ever to have tackled economic underperformance’. The First Minister’s economic case for an independent Scotland is reliant on high oil revenues – now we know they are just a piece of fiction.These inflated oil figures are an attempt to con the people of Scotland, but Alex Salmond has been caught red-handed.
“With just 100 days until the referendum vote, the entire basis for the SNP’s separation mathematics has been blown apart.”
In the Holyrood chamber, Ms Davidson added: “It is a total farce. The First Minister has wildly over-estimated beyond the expectation of any rigorous analysis in order to try and plug the gaping holes in his white paper.”
Mr Salmond replied: “The Conservative Party have been depicting the demise of the North Sea oil industry since the 1980s.
“Professor Hughes Hallett is voting Yes in the referendum because he believes the Scottish economy will be better managed and governed from Scotland, and the scenarios pointed out in the papers released [by the government] last week … are a great deal more robust than the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) estimates.”
New Scottish Government predictions on Scottish share of oil and gas suggest the country can benefit from £34.3bn over the next five years – equal to almost £7bn a year.
The OBR, which was set up by the UK government, makes far lower predictions – the body expects just £15.8bn over the five years.