Swinney: Scotland will get fair share of £1.3 trillion UK assets

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  By Sean Martin

A leading Scottish cabinet secretary has said Scotland will share £1.3 trillion worth of UK assets following a vote for independence.

Finance Secretary John Swinney made the claim ahead of the launch of a Scottish Government paper on the country’s public finances and the wealth creating opportunities of independence.

Mr Swinney said a Yes vote in September would trigger negotiations for a share of the estimated £1.3 trillion of UK assets – something he says would provide a strong base on which an independent Scotland could build.

“Later this week we will be setting out the strengths of Scotland’s finances and the huge opportunity that exists for Scotland’s economy with independence,” he said.

“Scotland will start life as an independent nation with access to our own wealth and a key stake in the £1.3 trillion of assets built up by the UK and funded by Scottish taxpayers.

“Everyone in Scotland has contributed to this £1.3 trillion stockpile of UK assets and Scotland is entitled to a fair share – giving us an even stronger base to build on.”

In 2011-12, the Whole of Government Accounts showed most of the UK’s assets comes from property, plant and equipment (£745bn).

Meanwhile, trade and other receivables amounted to £142bn in the same accounts, and financial assets, including equity investment in public sector banks, made up £288bn.

Any negotiations following a vote for independence would presumably include the issue of assets that cannot be shared – such as overseas embassies and defence equipment.

Mr Swinney put forward that, as a result of this, the discussions would lead to the offsetting of such assets against Scotland’s share of the UK debt.

He said: “In the case of physical assets overseas or defence assets that cannot be transferred or shared with Scotland, then the result will be for Scotland to receive a cash share of their value to see our share of UK debts reduced.”

This would ostensibly reduce Scotland’s share of the debt by billions of pounds. It is estimated that offsetting even just £10bn of assets could save Scotland £400m of payments on UK debt every year.

The claims come just days after the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, called the UK Treasury’s own analysis into an independent Scotland’s finances “deeply flawed and deeply misleading” as it based its study on a substantially higher number of government departments than was stated in the White Paper.

“The Treasury are either guilty of a horrendous blunder or it is a deliberate and deeply dishonest attempt to deceive,” said Mr Salmond.

“Much of the infrastructure needed for an independent country already exists, and Scottish taxpayers already pay their fair share for all devolved and reserved services, while Scotland also stands to inherit a fair share of joint assets, valued at around £1.3 trillion.”