Unionist parties challenge Salmond on set-up costs

First Minister Alex Salmond, Labour leader Johann Lamont, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, and Conservative leader Ruth Davidson Picture: TSPL

First Minister Alex Salmond, Labour leader Johann Lamont, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, and Conservative leader Ruth Davidson Picture: TSPL

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THREE unionist party leaders have written to Alex Salmond demanding that he put a price tag on the start-up costs of an independent Scotland.

The Scottish Government has refuted Treasury claims that it would cost £1.5 billion to set up all of the public bodies required to run an independent nation, but has not presented its own estimated start-up costs.

Labour leader Johann Lamont, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie have now taken “the unusual step” of writing a joint letter to the First Minister demanding answers.

All three are part of the Better Together campaign to keep the UK together.

The letter states: “Two years ago, the Scottish cabinet considered it needed detailed information on the costs of transition to independence, which is why your Finance Secretary, John Swinney, agreed to produce a report for them at their meeting in June 2012.

“We know that he instructed civil servants in finance and the office of the chief economic adviser (OCEA) to carry out the work.

“It is widely reported in the press last Friday that your chief official spokesperson told journalists the previous day that no document had been produced and no figures calculated, and that there is no intention of giving such a cost estimate before September.

“It is simply unthinkable that a government would pursue such a radical and irreversible policy such as independence without first undertaking any modelling work or providing any estimates for the cost of that change.

“We have seen today further projections envisaged for a separate welfare system.

“As the leaders of the three opposition parties, we have agreed to take the unusual step of writing to you jointly to seek urgent clarity on the set-up costs for an independent Scotland, given the importance of the decision people will soon be asked to make on the future direction of the country.”

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