Better Together claims on Scottish economy ‘probably misleading’ admits leading spokeswoman


  By G.A.Ponsonby
A leading member of the anti-independence campaign Better Together has publicly admitted that a key claim her campaign made about the Scottish economy is ‘probably misleading’.
Catriona Headley who represents the pro-Union alliance in female centred debates and discussions made the admission after being challenged about a claim that appeared on an official Better Together leaflet.

According to the leaflet, an independent Scotland would have an economy ranked 45th in the world, below that of Pakistan.  The No campaign document The Facts You Need  includes a table that shows the gross domestic product of the world’s major nations, with the UK ranked sixth behind France.

This contrasted with a Yes Scotland leaflet which said that Scotland would be in 14th place in a world table of economies – higher than the UK.

Quizzed by a member of the audience on the Better Together claim, Headley conceded that the leaflet was probably misleading.

“It’s right in the context of what it is … the figure is correct but I understand if you read it in that context [of GDP] it probably is misleading”.

Appearing on the panel at the same debate, SNP Deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon asked if it was really believable for the No campaign to claim that Scotland was poorer than Pakistan.  Ms Sturgeon explained that GDP had to be divided by population in order to determine relative wealth of a country.

Headley, who was the Labour Party Scottish Parliamentary Candidate for Edinburgh Western, was accompanied by Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale who remained silent despite her campaign colleague’s difficulty.

Yesterday, Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, demanded that the No campaign “withdraw its ludicrous claim that Pakistan is richer than Scotland” and accused them of “deliberately talking down the Scottish economy”.  ‪Mr Swinney said Scotland is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, with national output per head higher than France, the UK and Japan. 

Today the Finance Secretary published ten key strengths of the Scottish economy – over and above Scotland’s massive oil bonus.

‪- Scotland’s Food and drink industry has a turnover of £13 billion a year.
‪- Our tourism industry generates more than £6 billion a year.
– We have more than 20 per cent of Europe’s fisheries catch
‪- Exports from manufacturing alone are worth around £15 billion a year.
‪- Life Sciences employs 16,000 people and turns over £1.9 billion.
‪- Our Creative Industries generate more than £5 billion a year.
‪- We have more universities, per head, in the world’s top 200 than any other country.
‪- Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal potential.
‪- Scotland’s ICT sector contributes around £3.6 billion annually to the economy.
‪- Inward investment from overseas is at a 16 year high

‪Mr Swinney said:

“Today the Yes campaign is setting out the diversity and strength of the Scottish economy with ten key facts which show we can choose independence with confidence.

“Our wealth is the foundation on which, with the powers of independence, we can build a better Scotland. These facts are an independent Scotland’s ‘starter for ten.’

“A Yes vote is the greatest opportunity we will ever have to ensure the vast wealth of Scotland benefits all the people who live here.”

Referring to recent claims by No supporters that Scotland would be over-reliant on oil and there were less reserves left to be extracted than previously believed, Mr Swinney added:

“Industry estimates of up to 24 billion barrels of oil still to come represent a huge bonus but the No campaign act as if this massive windfall means Scotland has been visited by some dreadful curse.

“In fact without a single penny in revenue from the North Sea, the amount of tax we generate from our economy is, in the words of the UK Government ‘roughly the same’ per head as the UK as a whole.

“Even without oil revenue Scotland is a strong and diverse economy with the potential to generate a more secure future and greater job opportunities.”

The admission that the Better Together leaflet was probably misleading follows recent revelations over official leaflets distributed by Conservative colleagues in which Tory politicians and activists were caught posing as ordinary members of the public.  Identical questions were also claimed to have been asked from different people who lived in a variety of areas.

A similar practice was exposed this weekend when online site Wings Over Scotland revealed people in official Better Together campaign videos were being passed off as ordinary members of the public, despite having links to pro-Union parties and in many cases seeking careers within those same parties.

The revelations have given rise to a belief that some within Better Together are seeking a No vote in order to ensure a better chance of a lucrative political career which will be offered if the path to Westminster remains open.

Should Scotland vote for independence then many Scottish MPs, especially Labour, stand to lose hundreds of thousands as their careers, and those of their parliamentary researchers, are cut short.

Such a scenario would result in vicious in-fighting as the limited seats offered by Holyrood were fought over by former MPs and current and prospective MSPs.