SCOTLAND would be the sixth-wealthiest country in the world if it stopped “subsidising the rest of the UK”, finance secretary John Swinney has claimed.
In his closing speech at the SNP conference in Inverness, Mr Swinney challenged those who believe that Scotland cannot afford to go independent by arguing that the country would flourish if it had control over North Sea oil revenue.
Mr Swinney also said that Scotland already contributes more in tax than it gets back in expenditure.
“As the global economy recovers from recession, all countries run a deficit, but the UK deficit is higher than that in Scotland,” he told delegates at the Eden Court Theatre.
“In four out of the last five years, Scotland has run a budget surplus. The UK was in deficit in each of these years.
“Scotland contributes more to the UK in tax revenue than we get back in the UK public spending,” he went on.
“Scotland is subsidising the rest of the UK. Our country pays her way.”
He added: “The figures show that, with a geographical share of our offshore resources, Scotland would be the sixth-wealthiest country in the world – ten places ahead of the UK at 16th.”
Mr Swinney contrasted his management of Scotland’s finances with the “chaos and crisis” of the previous UK Labour government, and accused the Conservative-led coalition of “financial blackmail” over public-sector pensions.
He said: “Independence will give the Scottish Parliament the normal powers enjoyed by nations across the world to deliver jobs and growth.
“Responsibility for our own affairs, rather than the dead hand of Westminster control.
“And, of course, the forces of negativity will tell us that Scotland can’t stand on her own two feet.”
He also delivered a stinging attack on the Union, saying that the economic recessions of the 1980s, 1990s, or the 21st century “had nothing to do with independence”, adding: “They happened under the Union.”
He said: “The squandering of £300 billion of North Sea oil revenues had nothing to do with independence. That happened under the Union.
“The raiding of pension funds by Gordon Brown had nothing to do with independence. That happened under the Union,” the finance secretary went on. “The banking crisis had nothing to do with independence. That happened under the Union.”
Mr Swinney repeated his attack on the UK government’s “threat” to cut Scotland’s budget if it delays implementation of increased pension contributions for public-sector workers, which he wants to defer.
He said: “When public-sector workers feel rightly angry at the raid on the pensions by the Tory-Lib Dem government, we should be able to take our decisions without the financial blackmail of the UK government.”
He also repeated his calls for a “Plan MacB” for the UK economy, and criticised Labour for their attacks on his financial confidence.
Mr Swinney said that, in contrast to the UK, Scottish Government ministers worked together to formulate their response to the economic crisis.
He also said his government has “ended the days of petty squabbling between national and local government”.
Following his speech, Mr Swinney raised his right hand and pointed to a blue wristband, which was given to all delegates to mark the official start of the SNP’s referendum campaign for Scottish independence.