Letter: National debt

David Stevenson (Letters, 17 December) claims that Scotland had no national debt prior to 1707. The reality is somewhat different.

The famine of the 1690s almost halved the Scottish population and all of the disposable wealth of the country was squandered on trying to create a colony at Darien.

People were dying and the country bankrupt. Stirling, for example, had only one usable handcart. Newcastle-upon-Tyne had a greater GDP than the whole of Scotland.

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The situation was desperate and only England and Ireland (sharing a common monarch) could ease their plight. And they did so.

An equivalent was paid to all who had shares in the Darien venture, compensating for their losses, and Scotland was able to recover by being part of the largest free trade area in the world at that time and gaining access to England's colonies.

England had, for the first time in centuries, a secure northern border. No longer would Scotland be exploited by France as a back door and second front in their numerous wars against them.

Being united, the national debt was a UK one and Scotland paid its share.

Colin Wilson

Arnothill Court

Falkirk, Stirlingshire

David Stevenson raises an interesting point concerning the origins of the national debt.

The Museum of Scotland records a lump sum of 398,000 plus additional revenue was paid to "compensate Scotland for taking on a share of the much larger English debt" as well as compensation for the Darien disaster, the expenses of changeover and to bring Scottish industry up to English standards.

The company set up to administer the scheme eventually became the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1727 and if Mr Stevenson thinks there was something fishy about whether the funds were "ever actually paid" perhaps he should ask the Scottish bank.

An even more interesting point might be made about the national debt.

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Given the extremely generous way the English met all the costs of Union, if by some mischance we ever get dragged into Disunion, I hope the SNP will be equally generous in its turn and assume the entire costs of the split. But we should see the bill beforehand. After 300 years of inflation a reverse of that 398,000 paid in 1707 would make anyone's eyes water.

Robert Veitch

Paisley Drive