But nationalists insist Westminster has “squandered” Scotland’s oil wealth for the past 40 years – and will do the same for the next 40 without independence.
The SNP government wants to create a Norwegian-style fund which would receive a slice of the country’s oil and gas wealth to create lucrative security for future generations.
The Norwegian fund is already worth about £470 billion and although it is unlikely Scotland could emulate this as North Sea reserves fall into decline, Mr Salmond insisted it would still provide a tidy nest egg when the Scottish and UK cabinets met in Aberdeenshire yesterday.
But Scotland will face debts of about £140bn if independence occurs and its public finances are likely to be in the red – raising questions over the viability of a savings fund.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “It takes only basic mathematics to understand that you cannot spend and save the same money at the same time. The Scottish Government’s plan for an oil fund is another triumph of flat-earth economics over reality.”
He added: “The facts are clear. If an independent Scotland wants an oil fund, the First Minister has to tell us whether he will cut public services by 8 per cent or hike up income and other taxes by 11 per cent. There is no way around this issue and pretending otherwise is an attempt to fool the people of Scotland.”
But nationalist MSP Maureen Watt said Norway provides an example of how Scotland’s oil and gas wealth “could and should have been used”.
She added: “Westminster has downplayed the value of oil and squandered the revenues for more than 40 years. We cannot allow them to waste the next 40.”