An honest start

The question of the start-up costs of an independent Scotland is somewhat lacking in clarity. How can one side come up with a figure of £200 million and the other with £2.7 billion?

Can the discrepancy between the figures be due, in part at least, to the distinction between initial costs and eventual total costs?

Initial costs are estimated by Professor Patrick Dunleavy (your report, 23 June) at £200m. But information technology costs of £900m would need to be added to that in the longer term as well as the costs of setting up government agencies such as the DVLA.

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If these additional costs do not produce a total of £2.7bn then the Treasury needs to tell us it has made an error, apologise and produce the updated figure.

The SNP needs to be equally up-front. Has it bothered to do the sums or not? Finance Secretary John Swinney’s infamous 11 refusals to produce a figure was followed within a couple of hours by First Minister Alex Salmond’s plucking out of the air a figure of £200m.

A few days later Mr Swinney was telling us that any attempts to calculate a figure would be “meaningless” until the sharing out of UK assets was negotiated. Prof Dunleavy suggests that this could take ten years.

So it would only be after ten years of independence that Mr Swinney could begin to work out the start-up costs.

At least with the building of the parliament and the trams we had a ball-park figure to begin with so that we could calculate how much over budget these projects had gone.

From both sides of the divide what we need on this issue is a start-up of honesty.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue

Edinburgh