GERS: Indy white paper was no '˜con', says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon today rejected claims that the SNP had attempted to "con" Scots over their plans for independence after official figures indicated that the party's economic estimates were billions out.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Getty Images
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Getty Images

Scotland had a deficit of £13.3 billion in its public finances in 2016/17, according to official Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures today.

This would have been the first year of independence if Scots had voted Yes in 2014 when the Nationalist Government in Scotland predicted a deficit of £2.5-3.2 billion.

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Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today said the SNP owed voters an "explanation for the gross error in the forecast."

Asked if the Scottish Government's white paper on independence had been a "con", Ms Sturgeon said: "I don't accept that in any way, shape or form.

"Nobody, not myself nor any of the opposition parties or you guys (journalists) foresaw the decline in the oil price.

"That was a change in circumstance that happened after publication of figures in the white paper. The white paper figures that were published were based on the best available evidence at the time.

"If you take the oil price that was part of the revenues projection in the white paper, the oil price that the Scottish Government was projecting at that time was actually lower than certain departments of the UK Government.

"We saw a change in circumstances, we saw quite a significant shock to the Scottish economy in terms of what happened with oil and that explains the difference between the white paper and the figures we're looking at today."

The GERS figures provide a snapshot of how Scotland's deficit - the measure of public spending against taxes raised to fund them - would look on the first day after independence. Nationalists insist they cannot show how the economy would evolve under independence if Scotland was free to make its own economic decisions.

But Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “These figures prove once and for all that the SNP sold false hope to the poorest people in Scotland. The real hope is with a Labour government.

“Scotland’s own accounts show that the first year of an independent Scotland would have meant unprecedented levels of austerity.

“These cuts would not only have been the largest ever felt by Scottish public services like schools and hospitals, the Nationalists’ plan would have taken a sledgehammer to the welfare state as we know it."

“Nicola Sturgeon knew the sums didn’t add up.”