Nicola Sturgeon '˜can't remember' independent Scotland start-up costs

Nicola Sturgeon was unable to say how much it would cost to set up an independent Scotland when asked repeatedly for the figure quoted in the SNP's Growth Commission.

Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, which opened on Friday. Picture: PA

On the opening day of the SNP conference in Aberdeen, the First Minister was also unable to say how much it would cost to set up a Scottish social security agency.

In an interview for Channel 4 News, the SNP leader was asked on several occasions how much the Commission had forecast it would cost to set up the new ministries required to run an independent country.

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The Growth Commission forecast that the setting up costs of an independent Scotland would come to £450 million over five years. After attempting to dodge the question, Ms Sturgeon finally admitted after around its fourth time of asking that she couldn’t “recall the exact figure in the report”.

Interviewer Ciaran Jenkins then asked her twice how much it would cost to set up a Scottish social security agency. Ms Sturgeon admitted: “I don’t have all these figures right at the tip of my fingers right now.”

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Mr Jenkins, Channel 4’s Scotland correspondent, said he was trying to get an idea of whether the numbers were realistic.

He said it would cost £200 million to set up a Scottish social security agency. He then said it cost more than £178 million for computer system to make payments to Scottish farmers, adding that the figures together were “almost your entire budget for setting up a new country”.

Ms Sturgeon said she had not come up with the figures produced by the Growth Commission.

“They are figures that a respected academic has come up with. Therefore I think they deserve to be treated seriously. But as I started to say at the outset ot this line of questioning. e will go through a proper process as a party of analysing and interogating and coming to our own conclusions about these things.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “This is where the SNPs broken case for independence lies: with Nicola Sturgeon unable to remember fantasy figures for set up costs from a report she still insists is credible. What an embarrassment.

“No wonder pro-independence supporters as well as pro-Union backers are running a mile from her independence blueprint. Everyone can see it doesn’t add up.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Lesley Laird, said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s interview demonstrates the lack of confidence the SNP has in their own growth commission.

“The only thing that is clear is that the report paints a picture which looks bleak, and as Richard Leonard said, it’s a Cuts Commission which will deliver another decade of punishing austerity. Nicola Sturgeon is unable to answer even the simplest of questions on her report. This is a re-run of the White Paper of 2014. No detail, no substance and obviously no answers to the hard questions that the people of Scotland need. independence at any price.”