Scotland would be 'richest' country to ever pursue independence, argues SNP growth commission chief

Scotland would be the “richest” country ever to pursue independence, according to a former SNP MSP who chaired the party’s sustainable growth commission.

Andrew Wilson said in the event of Scotland failing to leave the UK, and rejoining the European Union, the nation would face an “economically high-risk” future.

The founding partner of communications and lobbying firm, Charlotte Street Partners, said the “negative economic case” for Scottish independence has “probably never been stronger due to the economic performance of the UK”, and argued that Brexit was the “catalyst for Scotland’s choice now”.

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In an essay for Perspective magazine, Mr Wilson said Scotland has it in its power to pursue the policies to emulate small nations with highly successful economies which dominate the top of the rankings of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) league table of economic performance measured by GDP per capita.

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Mr Wilson, who served in Holyrood between 1999 and 2003, conceded there would be "challenges" facing Scotland were it to rejoin the EU, and said Scots would have to decide whether the benefits of membership outweighed the negatives of remaining in the UK.

He also cautioned against a post-independence austerity programme and instead said the Scottish Government should invest in the transition to net-zero and recovery from Covid-19.

"It stands to reason that if Brexit is problematic for Britain's trade, then Scotland returning to the EU will create challenges," Mr Wilson wrote.

Former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson. Picture: Gordon Terris/The Herald/PA Wire

"The difference, of course, is that if Brexit is a choice to exit the benefits of the single market, independence would be a choice to return to them. Transitional challenges will therefore be about benefits sought rather than departed from in Brexit.

"Scots have the choice of independence and a return to the European Union. Not choosing that would be economically high-risk.

"The process will not be simple; it will be hard work and take effort, but, like most acts of self-improvement, it will also be satisfying and meaningful. Of course it will be challenging, but it will be worth it."

Ensuring independence is successful, Mr Wilson added, will depend largely on decisions made after separation, but the issue for voters will be if Scotland is more likely to make good economic decisions as an independent country than the UK Government would be able to on its behalf.

"If Scotland makes bad choices, the country won't achieve its potential," he explained.

"The question is whether it's more likely to get the policy mix right on its own than as part of the UK, with a government it doesn't support.

"Policies it would make as an independent country include a pro-migration stance agreed across all the parties in Scotland, in contrast to the approach of the UK Home Office.

"The economic imperative for this in Scotland is clear, as is political consent."

Mr Wilson said Scots “raise enough in taxation in non-Covid times” to pay for the policy responsibilities of the Scottish Government, such as health, transport, and education, as well as state pensions and social security.

He argued the deficit facing an independent Scotland was made up of the “notional allocation of UK programme costs to Scotland,” such as defence, debt interest and other reserved areas.

Mr Wilson reasoned: “Many of these Scotland would have to fund; some they may choose not to.”

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