By Lynda Williamson
What was hailed as a defining day in the independence referendum campaign turned out to be a difficult day for the UK government.
Not just one but both of the two academics whose work was cited by HM Treasury in its analysis of the costs of independence have distanced themselves from the report.
In his study Professor Patrick Dunleavy and his team from the London School of Economics carried out very comprehensive and detailed analysis of the costs of reorganising major, UK wide, Whitehall departments. They concluded that the average cost involved was £15 million.
The UK government then extrapolated this figure to each of the 180 government bodies which they claim an independent Scotland would need. The UK has 24 major ministerial departments.
When asked on Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive about the Treasury’s use of his research, Professor Dunleavy said that he felt:
“It is very important, if you are contributing to a public debate, to contribute accurate information and not, as in this case I’m afraid, very crude misinformation.”
Professor Dunleavy said he believed that the Treasury had taken his figure and “made it ludicrous” and that Treasury officials had not read his report before they quoted it.
He added that the Scottish government is run on a more modern and efficient system than that of the UK government and that the SNP figure of £250 million sounded like a “more realistic figure”.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander had claimed that the cost of setting up government departments in Scotland would be £1.5 billion citing another academic, Robert Young, politics professor at the University of Western Ontario. This was £1.2 billion lower than the £2.7 billion figure which appeared in the Treasury’s paper.
However speaking earlier to the Financial Times, Prof Robert Young of Western University in Canada explained that the £1.5 billion figure was not his but had been extrapolated from a range of estimates of the costs involved in setting up an independent Quebec. The figure used by the Treasury was the highest estimate in the range of possible costs to Quebec.
Commenting on today’s publication of the Treasury’s analysis of Scotland’s finances – First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“Today has been a watershed moment in the referendum campaign.
“The Treasury had been briefing that this would be a defining day in the independence debate – it certainly has been, but just not in the way they had planned.
“Westminster’s figures have been blown to pieces as they have been disowned by the very experts the Treasury were citing, while we have set out the positive case for an economically successful independent Scotland.
“The Treasury’s documents are still using the bogus £2.7 billion ‘start-up costs’ figures – despite Professor Dunleavy of the LSE rejecting them as ‘badly misrepresenting’ his work.
“Danny Alexander then tried to claim a figure of £1.5 billion, citing another expert who had already said the figures ‘was not his’.
“Mr Alexander’s figures are in meltdown, and the Treasury have been left without a single shred of credibility.
“People across Scotland will now be looking at the competing visions of our nation’s future outlined today – our vision, based on the extraordinary wealth of Scotland and the ability of the people who live here to run their own country, or that of a Tory-led Westminster Government intent on running Scotland down and whose bogus figures have been brutally exposed.
“Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, more prosperous per head than the UK, France and Japan, but we need the powers of independence to ensure that that wealth properly benefits everyone in our society.”