Leader comment: Double standards on independence

Another analysis of the implications of Brexit underlines previous predictions that the process is going to be painful. According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa), the 'shocks' to the economy will leave Scotland facing a £3.7 billion shortfall in public funding.

Murdo Fraser has criticised the Scottish Government for not publishing the recent findings of a report commissioned last year on the economic effects of independence.

The Scottish Government has responded by insisting that this forecast provides further evidence that Scottish ministers should have a direct role in Brexit negotiations, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has again claimed that Westminster is attempting a “power grab” as Brexit unfolds.

It would be fair criticism to say that these reactions are more about achieving greater influence for the Scottish Government than directly addressing the impending economic impact of Brexit, and there is a sense that highlighting these power struggles is the only answer we ever hear. Opposition parties are right to take the administration to task on this front.

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But it is disappointing that the Scottish Conservatives have dragged independence back on to the agenda, with a demand that the SNP’s Growth Commission make public its private findings on the economic effect of independence.

After the general election, there was a demand that independence be taken off the table. Eventually, the First Minister did acknowledge that circumstances had changed, and put on hold plans to legislate for a second independence referendum. Since then, talk of independence has diminished.

Whatever the findings of the Growth Commission, it should be seen as a blessing that they have not been published and analysed to death. Even if the SNP HAD gone public with them, Ms Sturgeon would have been accused of pushing the independence agenda again.

“Last year, Nicola Sturgeon announced with great fanfare that her Growth Commission would set out how independence could be achieved,” said the Conservatives’ shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser. “It has all gone strangely quiet.” But isn’t that exactly what the Conservatives wanted?

To stop independence dominating the agenda, opposition parties have to play their part too. With the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures expected to show a significant deficit tomorrow, the temptation will be to attack the Scottish Government over independence again. That will get us nowhere.

The Scottish Government needs to be held to account on what it can do now to improve economic performance, not what it might – or might not – do in the future.