The Scottish Government lacks a “realistic plan” to replicate a Scandinavian-style society after a Yes vote in the referendum, a UK government minister has claimed.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael accused the SNP administration of “false flattery”, saying Nationalists had failed to set out how they would pay for higher levels of public services.
He claimed Holyrood ministers liked “to talk of a Scandinavian-style social democracy” in an independent Scotland and said the SNP’s white paper “refers directly to Scandinavian-style social services”.
In a speech at the University of Copenhagen, Mr Carmichael said the Scottish Government had not set out how this would be paid for.
He said: “The reality is that life is about choices. You cannot have a low-tax economy paying for Scandinavian levels of social provision.
“Despite the fact that the Scottish Government lauds the Scandinavian system, it has few concrete plans to replicate it, with nothing substantive whatsoever to say on welfare and absolutely no means to pay for it.”
While he said much of the Danish system was “good and enviable”, he added that “the Scottish Government’s words are just that, without a realistic plan they are no more than false flattery”.
Mr Carmichael added: “If the Nationalists really want to create Scandinavia in Scotland, let them come forward with comprehensive social policy, detailed and realistic tax policy and a plan for an independent currency and central bank. Denmark has that. Norway has that. Sweden has that too. Let that be the test of their Scandinavian commitment.”
He went on: “The Scottish Government’s new-found enthusiasm for the Scandinavian model is skin-deep.
“They are not prepared to acknowledge the reality that services of the sort you enjoy here in Denmark require higher levels of public spending. And that higher levels of public spending need to be matched by higher levels of taxation.”
Mr Carmichael said in Denmark about 47 per cent of GDP is taken in tax, but in the UK this is “much lower” at 36 per cent.
The Scottish Secretary continued: “Instead of telling people in Scotland how the Scottish Government would increase taxes to pay for a Scandinavian model of public services, the white paper talks of freezing personal taxation, cutting aviation taxes and reducing corporation tax so that it is always 3 per cent below the UK rate – whatever that UK rate is – and despite the fact that it is currently among the lowest in the G20.
“So, we need the Scottish Government to be clear with people in Scotland about where the money will come from to deliver the promises they have made.
“Because, as you know, Denmark was not built on the basis of a race to the bottom on taxes. Scandinavian-style social services cannot be paid for by low tax takes.”
Last night, a spokesman for Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed Mr Carmichael’s speech would have been “greeted with astonishment by his Danish audience”.
He said: “Denmark is a country of around five million people which is a fantastic economic and social success story, and governs itself, unlike Scotland.
“Mr Carmichael spends time lavishing praise on the Danish model but argues Scotland should not take its future into its own hands to do likewise – despite us being one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
“He also appears totally ignorant of the fact that Denmark has recently announced moves to slash its corporation tax rates.”
The spokesman added: “The Scottish Secretary should stop making taxpayer-funded trips to other countries to talk Scotland down and spend time talking to people here about why he is helping prop up a Tory government with just one MP north of the Border.”