By Andrew Barr
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has come under fire for his latest intervention into the independence debate after he gave a dire warning about the economic sustainability of Scotland.
Mr Alexander warned of an increased reliance of oil in an independent Scotland despite having previously boasted that the UK government tax raid on the North Sea was “my idea”.
The Lib Dem MP also warned that an independent Scotland would have a large budget deficit and that financial services would flee south.
Commenting on the intervention, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said it was a further example of the anti-independence campaign’s double-speak and increasingly negative tactics.
Mr Gibson – convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee – said:
“Danny Alexander epitomises the sheer dishonesty of the anti-independence parties, who are addicted to scaremongering when it comes to the independence debate. His shambolic performance on national radio this morning portrayed someone who has zero confidence in what they are saying.
“For the man who was reported boasting about being the author of the UK government’s increase in oil taxation then to claim the same would happen in an independent Scotland is the height of hypocrisy. Mr Alexander seems to have also forgotten that the Treasury did no analysis before making these tax changes.
“Coming so soon after his other economically illiterate claims on mortgages, the question should be asked if the recent UK government budget omnishambles is reflective of a lack of competence and credibility at the heart of the Treasury.
“Maybe Mr Alexander could explain why Norway has never looked back since establishing its oil fund in the 1990s, and why Scotland should not also have the benefit of our own enormous oil wealth.
“Instead, Scotland’s wealth has been squandered by successive Westminster Governments – Tory, Labour, and Con/Dem. With over half of the value still to be extracted from North Sea oil and gas – representing a £1.5 trillion asset base – it is vital that Scotland achieves independence and establishes an oil fund so that Scotland gets the benefit of our own resources, now and into the future.”
Mr Alexander faced calls even from within his own party to resign after bragging to a group of businessmen that the £10bn North Sea tax raid was his idea.
Last year, the senior Scottish member of the Coalition said he had no regrets, declaring that the oil belonged to the UK government. Fellow Liberal Democrat MP Malcom Bruce claimed Mr Alexander was “economically illiterate” and that his plans for a tax hike could “kill off investment in the North Sea”.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury also warned in June that mortgages would rise in an independent Scotland, prompting Scottish business leader Dan Macdonald to accuse him of “scaremongering” and making “outdated” claims.
Mr Macdonald, who runs Macdonald estates, told the Herald: “The scaremongering of Alexander, Darling and others and the entrenchment of the No campaign’s philosophy that we must remain dependent are irrelevant to the fundamental issue of where Scotland is and can be in the world.
“We have to seek, establish and insist on a new self- propelled way forward that sees us take responsibility for all of our own affairs.
“It is time that adult Scots stepped up to the plate and sought to preserve in difficult times a better country for future generations.”
The SNP has today published a list of actions and claims made by Mr Alexander “which question his credibility and competence” as a government minister. The list includes claims by the MP that cutting the top rate of tax would be “cloud cuckoo land” despite him now supporting a budget that is doing exactly that.
Mr Alexander also recently claimed that regional public sector pay was a “distant and unlikely prospect” when it was he who previously wrote to the First Minister of Wales saying he was “keen” to see it introduced.
The list goes further to cite broken pledges to oppose an increase in VAT and tuition fees.
The campaign against independence which was launched last week by Alistair Darling pledged to run a “positive” fight for the Union, but so far has played upon a perception of weakness in Scotland.
The latest intervention by Mr Alexander adds to the perceived negativity of the campaign which launched with warnings of “uncertainty” and Scots having “no way back”, suggesting that independence could be a failure.