Scotland among ‘richest nations’ says No campaign advisor

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  By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
 
The No campaign is facing fresh embarrassment after its long-standing warnings about a poor economy in an independent Scotland were again contradicted by one of its own advisers.
 
Writing for the Fraser of Allander Institute, No campaign adviser Professor Jim Gallagher admitted that Scotland was one of the “richest regions” in the country and had better economic activity than most of England.

“Scotland now enjoys levels of economic activity at 98% of the UK level, higher than most of England, having started in 1963 at a much lower level,” he wrote, adding that “despite undoubted problems, Scotland is one of the richest regions of the UK”.

In the latest blow for the No campaign, the comments emerged shortly after the Scottish Government published GERS figures showing that Scotland’s finances have been healthier over the last five years than the UK as a whole by nearly £1,600 per person in Scotland.

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “Despite some of the best efforts of the anti-independence campaign to portray Scotland’s finances as being in a poor state, the No campaign’s own adviser has confirmed that Scotland is a fundamentally wealthy country.

“It is a welcome acknowledgement that Scotland is one of the richest parts of the UK – something that Jim Gallagher’s colleagues in the No campaign all too often seem reluctant to acknowledge.”

The incident is not the first time Professor Gallagher has contradicted the official line of the No campaign.  In comments made in the Daily Telegraph in January, the academic dismissed the notion that Scotland would ever obtain a version of devo-max as “fantastical” and said that any extra powers given to Scotland would “largely be restricted to issues of tax”, pouring cold water on claims from the No campaign that Scots could gain significantly more control over their affairs by staying in the union.

Professor Gallagher also previously backed the idea of a currency union – recently ruled out by Chancellor George Osborne – saying it would make “a lot of sense” and that there was “no doubt that these islands, particularly the island of Britain, are an optimum currency union”.

The academic was unveiled as a Better Together adviser at the beginning of the year but has made a series of gaffes.  On the EU, it emerged he had previously written that in the event of an independence it was “pretty likely” that Scotland would become an EU state after an “accelerated set of accession negotiations”.

His comments have been at odds with Better Together’s position – which is often described by opponents as ‘scare mongering’ – on a range of issues which have attempted to cast doubt on Scotland’s future membership of the EU, thwart currency union proposals and insist Scotland could not survive economically as an independent country.

“Perhaps with this latest intervention, the No campaign will at last learn that persisting with their negative Project Fear tactics is doing them absolutely no favours – as witnessed in the polls showing support for a Yes vote increasing,” Mr Gibson added.