By Martin Kelly
The most senior civil servant at the UK Treasury has admitted that a key part of the claims made by Danny Alexander over the setup costs of an independent Scotland, were wrong.
Speaking at a seminar at the Queen Mary University of London, Sir Nicholas Macpherson conceded that the Treasury had “misbriefed” on a key statistic when it said it would cost £2.7bn to create new departments in an independent Scotland.
The admission is a blow to the anti-independence campaign which last week seized on figures published by UK Treasury Chief Danny Alexander as proof that a newly independent Scotland would start out worse off than the rest of the UK.
In its analysis paper published last month, HM Treasury claimed that a newly independent Scotland would require 180 government departments which would cost £2.7 billion to set up.
Within days however, Professor Patrick Dunleavy from the London School of Economics on whose research the claims were based, accused the Treasury of having misrepresented his data.
He said: “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”.
Another academic, Prof Robert Young of Western University in Canada, who was cited by Danny Alexander, said a figure used by the Lib Dem MP was not the academic’s but had been extrapolated from a range of estimates of the costs involved in setting up an independent Quebec.
Speaking at the time of the controversial Treasury claims, First Minister Alex Salmond called the figure, “deeply flawed and deeply misleading”.
Commenting on Sir Nicholas’s admission, a spokesman for the First Minister said: “Sir Nicolas has lifted the lid on the misinformation cooked up by the UK Treasury — each No campaign scare story is being dismantled brick by brick.
“He has put paid to any doubts over an independent Scotland’s place in the EU and admitted, like David Cameron, that Scotland is a wealthy country. And he has demolished the Treasury’s position about start-up costs by conceding their paper was done with bogus calculations.”