Alexander challenged to come clean on assets share


  Finance Secretary John Swinney has said any claims about Scotland’s finances from the UK Government must include details on Scotland’s share of UK assets worth nearly £1.3 trillion.

Mr Swinney’s call follows comments from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander who himself recently admitted to the Scottish Parliament that an independent Scotland will inherit a share of UK assets.

He said billions of pounds could be paid to an independent Scotland in cash as many of the assets paid for by Scottish tax-payers will be physically located in the rest of the UK.

Mr Swinney said:

“Danny Alexander has said the UK Treasury is examining the finances of an independent Scotland.

“We already know Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the developed world and that over the past 5 years our public finances have been healthier than the UK’s to the tune of around £1,600 per person.

“To have a shred of credibility any Westminster analysis should also set out in detail the assets that will be due to Scotland in the event of a vote for independence in September.”

Mr Swinney’s call came ahead of a speech which was given by Mr Alexander in which the Lib Dem MP is expected to describe claims that Scotland deserves a share of UK assets and institutions as “fantastical”.

Speaking on Wednesday, the Treasury minister launched yet another attack on the Scottish Government’s estimates on North Sea oil.

On the issue of shared assets, he said: “There is also the fantastical claim, made in the White Paper, that an independent Scotland would share a third of the UK’s institutions and services despite the fact that this is completely unprecedented anywhere in the world.”

However, Mr Swinney added: “As part its campaign rhetoric we know the UK Government talks about Scotland’s share of the debt run up by successive Westminster Chancellors.

“It cannot be taken seriously if does not also talk about Scotland’s share of assets.

“Scotland’s share of UK assets will be realised in a combination of ways – through physical assets, cash transfer and continued use of assets through shared service agreements.

“Assets located elsewhere in the UK will be included in negotiations, as Scotland has contributed to their value over a long period of time. For physical assets like these, the equitable outcome may be to provide Scotland with an appropriate cash share of their value.

“We note with interest preliminary analysis by academics suggesting that on defence alone Scotland may be entitled to draw upon a notional sum of nearly £5 billion for physical assets located elsewhere

“The apportionment of the UK national debt will be negotiated and agreed as part of the overall settlement on assets and liabilities.

“On any reasonable scenario, because national income per head is higher in Scotland than the UK, an independent Scotland will have a lower debt burden as a share of GDP than the UK.

“Both the Scottish and UK Governments have signed the Edinburgh Agreement which commits both governments to working together on matters of mutual interest, good communication and mutual respect.

“The two governments have also said they will work together constructively, whatever the result, so we can expect these matters to be worked out in that spirit of mutual respect and co-operation.”