Independent Scotland would need to quadruple quangos

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore. Picture: Jane Barlow
Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore. Picture: Jane Barlow
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AN INDEPENDENT Scotland would be forced to create up to four times as many Scottish public organisations as currently exist, a flagship new UK government report on independence has claimed.

• Scotland needs four times more public bodies, new report says

• 140 out of 230 UK institutions currently perform duties for Scotland, including MoD and Foreign Office

Scotland would need the new bodies to take on the role of at least 140 UK government organisations that deliver services and perform functions north of the border, according to the advice of two eminent international lawyers.

The stark warning came as Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said that Scotland would have to take on an “equitable share” of the UK’s debt as he set out the Westminster government’s legal advice on the implications of independence.

Mr Moore, speaking at the launch of the report today, insisted that independence would end the “established and trusted form” of government through devolution in Scotland citing the report from James Crawford of the University of Cambridge, and Alan Boyle, from the University of Edinburgh.

An independent Scotland would not inherit a share of the machinery of the UK government and would instead have to create set up hundreds of new bodies to deliver services, the legal experts claimed.

Scotland would either have to “establish new institutions or significantly expand” its own government departments as well as having to set up bodies to oversee key sector such as energy and public transport.

The authors of the report said that to “perform the same functions that are currently provided by the UK, the government of an independent state would need to create up to four times as many Scottish public organisations as currently exist.”

They said that of the 230 UK central government bodies and have 490,000 staff, 140 organisations perform functions for Scotland including the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.

The government of an independent Scotland would have to replicate that level of organisation at “some cost” to the taxpayer as well as taking on some of the work of nearly 60 advisory bodies that are responsible for matters throughout the UK, the authors of the report said.

They also believe the most likely outcome of Scottish independence would be the continuation of the UK as the existing state under international law and the creation of a new state of Scotland.

However, they have not ruled out the creation of two completely new states or the resurrection of the Scottish state that existed prior to 1707, although both outcomes are deemed unlikely.

Opposition parties seized on the findings to claim that the report showed independence would be a “bad deal” for public services in Scotland.

Scottish deputy Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “The analysis produced by the UK Government highlights the strong ties that bind Scotland to the United Kingdom and the positive ways in which we work together in the interests of all the people of these islands.

“It makes it clear that severing these links and going it alone would be a bad deal for Scotland.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “It shatters the myth pedalled by Alex Salmond that independence would be a smooth process without any major upheaval for the people of Scotland.”

Meanwhile, Mr Moore, insisted that he would negotiate for the “best deal for Scotland” if voters back independence in the 2014 referendum, but said he would continue to argue “very strongly” against a Yes vote.

He said: “I have made very clear personally that were Scotland to vote for independence then, as Scots, we would be looking for the best deal for Scotland.

“Personally, I think the best deal for Scotland is that we stay in the UK, and therefore I will be arguing very strongly for that in the next 18 months.

Mr Moore went onto say that an independent Scotland would not inherit the UK’s existing international treaties such as EU and Nato membership but would inherit a share of the UK national debt.

He said: “We would need to have an equitable distribution of the liabilities.

“I know this was an issue raised elsewhere this morning, and we will be returning to that theme in subsequent papers as it is an essential factor in this debate that merits very careful attention.

“But the principle that we would negotiate that and have an equitable distribution is pretty well established in the paper today.”

Mr Moore, also said that it was not the responsibility of the UK government to bring forward proposals for further devolution as he spoke at the launch at Edinburgh’s Signet Library alongside junior minister David Mundell and Advocate General for Scotland Lord Jim Wallace.

The Scottish Secretary said “It’s not our role to bring forward these proposals” as he called on for ideas on enhanced devolution to come from groups and individuals within “Civic Scotland.”

SNP MSP Roderick Campbell, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Affairs Committee and an Advocate, said:

“This publication has completely back-fired on the UK Government and the No campaign - just like the Treasury’s inept briefing at the start of the year that the people of Scotland can get independence for just a pound.”