Scotland’s enormous resources can generate prosperity with independence

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   By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Government has produced a new report, Scotland’s Economy, the Case for Independence which argues that not only could an independent Scotland prosper, but that the country’s development and prosperity has been held back by successive Westminster governments which have used Scotland’s wealth to benefit the financial sector in the South East of England.

The report highlights the enormous resources which Scotland possesses, including the largest reserves of oil in the EU, 25% of Europe’s wind energy potential, 10% of European tidal energy potential, 60% of the fish landed in the UK, more than a quarter of the UK’s beef herd, a world class university sector and the strength that Scotland has in life sciences, tourism, creative industries, digital and ICT, energy, renewable energy, low carbon technologies, food and drink, financial and business services.

In addition Scotland possesses a manufacturing sector which exported £14.7bn in 2011, and a whisky export industry worth £4.27 billion in annual exports, which alone accounts for around a quarter of the UK’s food and drink sales overseas.

The report details an analysis carried out by Prof Alex Kemp of Aberdeen University which estimated Scotland’s share of UK offshore oil production at 96% and offshore gas production at 52%.  It is commonly thought that there are at least 24 billion barrels of oil still to be extracted from the North Sea, a figure which Malcolm Webb, chief executive of industry body Oil and Gas UK considers to be a serious underestimate.

The Scottish Government report notes that Scots, who make up 8.4% of the UK’s population, supply 9.9% of the UK’s tax receipts.  Scotland has generated more tax receipts per person than the UK for every one of the last 30 years, and the country is in a fiscally stronger position than the rest of the UK.  Despite this, Scotland’s long term economic growth rate has lagged behind the UK as a whole, and the gap between rich and poor has continued to widen.

Speaking at the launch of the report, First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“Despite our strong economic foundations and excellent global reputation, Scotland, with Westminster in control of our economy, is not reaching our potential as a nation and this report clearly lays out the ways in which UK government economic policies have not worked in Scotland’s best interests.”

He added: “This document sets out the enormous attributes and key strengths of the Scottish economy across a diverse range of sectors. We have a vast array of human, financial and natural resources, which many other countries do not enjoy.

“Scotland has a strong onshore economy and vast offshore potential, as well as a highly educated workforce and world class technology and research.

“But despite all of these inherent economic strengths, Scotland’s long-term economic growth has lagged behind that of comparable European nations, many of which do not have the natural advantages we do.

“The explanation for that rests in the fact that Scotland’s economic strength is not yet in Scotland’s hands.”

Mr Salmond argued that the recent admission from former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey that the UK Government had deliberately undervalued the potential revenues from North Sea oil was evidence that Westminster cannot be to give Scots accurate information in the run up to next year’s independence referendum.

In an interview with Holyrood magazine which was widely reported in the media, although barely mentioned on BBC Scotland, Former Labour chancellor Denis Healey admitted the UK Treasury “did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism”, and added that the UK Government is “worried stiff” that independence could deprive them of the remaining reserves.

Mr Salmond commented:

“Just this weekend Denis Healey casually admitted that ‘of course the Treasury underestimated the extent of Scotland’s oil and gas resources because they didn’t want people to vote for the SNP’.

“When you get to Denis Healey’s age you don’t mind telling the truth, and he said of course Scotland could prosper as an independent country.

“When we get our previous opponents admitting the truth and the reality, then that is an important aspect of the debate.”

“When you’re fighting a positive campaign then you realise that we are in a marathon to next September, not a sprint.

“The No campaign bogey stories will dissolve in the light of day as time goes on, like the European one has already. We now know that the European issue is now playing as a positive for the Yes campaign.

“We had the endearing admission by Denis Healey that the Scottish people are not to believe the Treasury in 2014.

“The Yes campaign will gain strength as we move towards September next year.”