In the balance

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Letter writers (25 March) are right to worry about the UK and Scotland’s balance of payments, and wrong to say that those who denigrate the SNP pronounce Scotland to be an economic basket case (who actually said this?).

If exports from the UK and Scotland could be increased and imports reduced then obviously the negative balance of payments would be eased, perhaps to the point of being able to reduce the accumulated £1,500 billion debt.

That is some task, given that so many other countries compete to do the same. A separate Scotland would still have its own gap, even if oil went back to yielding £10bn annually as in 2011-2012, and its own internal fiscal gap, as Mr Salmond accepted last year when he wanted to accept our debt share of some £120bn only if we got our share of the UK’s assets (about £100bn).

Now Holyrood wants full fiscal autonomy so that £180bn can be borrowed – but that could mean financing the payments on £300bn, and managing the yearly increase added from the fiscal deficit (some £15bn just now with the oil price so low).

Scotland is not a basket case but implicitly relying on the Bank of England as lender of last resort reflects a degree of concern. What attitude might be taken by Westminster if an enlarged SNP MP group persistently destabilised the UK government is uncertain?

Joe Darby