Covid has ‘crushed’ Scots independence argument, ex-Whitehall official claims

Nicola Sturgeon has been challenged to be “honest” about the economic reality of leaving the UK after a former Whitehall director-general for devolution claimed the Covid pandemic had “crushed” the independence argument, and one of the most senior members of the European Commission cast doubt on claims an independent Scotland could join the EU quickly.

A static rally at Bannockburn field by the All Under One Banner group. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A static rally at Bannockburn field by the All Under One Banner group. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Nicola Sturgeon has been challenged to be “honest” about the economic reality of leaving the UK after a former Whitehall director-general for devolution claimed the Covid pandemic had “crushed” the independence argument, and one of the most senior members of the European Commission cast doubt on claims an independent Scotland could join the EU quickly.

The pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union said that as the government prepares for the publication of this year’s Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures – which show the gap between what Scotland spends and raises in tax – the views of the two experts should force the SNP and the First Minister into being transparent about the economic prospects of a separate Scotland. The Scottish economy slumped by almost a fifth between April and June, according to official figures and the country’s economy is officially in recession with GDP 17.6 per cent below the level in February, prior to lockdown measures.

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Prof Jim Gallagher, who was Gordon Brown’s devolution adviser from 2007 to 2010, yesterday warned that Scotland faces a “staggering” and worsening deficit: about four times as large proportionately than the UK as a whole, while European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said he was unsure that a straightforward entry to the EU for a separate Scotland was possible “given the position of many member states on this... I would not be overly optimistic.”

SiU chief executive Pamela Nash, said: “It’s time for honesty from the SNP about the reality of leaving the UK.”

She added: “The people of Scotland deserve answers from the SNP about how it would cope with the seismic financial shock of leaving the UK. The SNP must also acknowledge that a separate Scotland could not quickly or easily join the EU.”

The SNP’s Westminster finance spokesperson, Alison Thewliss, MP, said every country was feeling the “economic impact of Covid-19” and added: “Given the choice between the chaos of Westminster and a Scottish Government working hard to support people, we may well see support for independence increase even further.”

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