Scottish independence: SNP offers talks on preparations for breakaway

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THE Scottish Government has offered to open talks with UK coalition government ministers on a range of issues to prepare for a Yes vote on independence.

The offer came from SNP finance secretary John Swinney as he gave evidence to the Lords economic affairs committee’s inquiry on the economic impact of independence.

During his evidence Mr Swinney also dismissed claims that thousands of defence jobs would be lost in Scotland as a result of independence and agreed that Scotland should take a “per capita share” of the UK’s debt, which is currently 75 per cent of GDP.

However, he questioned assertions that as a small, new country with no track record Scotland would struggle to have a triple-A status for borrowing.

“Two thirds of the countries given a triple-A credit rating status by Standard and Poor’s have populations of less than ten million,” he told peers.

He also said that figures produced by the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) and leading economic think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies that Scotland would quickly lose the benefit of its geographic share of oil and gas were not set in stone. He argued there are an estimated 24 billion barrels still left in the North Sea giving Scotland revenues of £1.5 trillion.

Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government was willing to hold discussions with a range of organisations, including the UK government in preparation for a potential Yes vote in 2014, within the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement.

Mr Swinney also took the opportunity to set out to the House of Lords the reasons why the Scottish Government believes independence is the right way forward for Scotland.

He said: “The Scottish Government has taken steps to ensure this is an orderly process that gives the people of Scotland the opportunity to fully debate the issues and to cast their ballot in the referendum with confidence.”