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Collapse in North Sea revenues destroys the SNP’s economic argument

16 March 2016

3:31 PM

16 March 2016

3:31 PM

Alex Salmond had planned 24 March 2016 as his independence day and the budget he published during the Scottish independence referendum envisaged it having up to £7.5 billion of oil to spend. Today’s Budget shows that the figure will, instead be zero: precisely 100 per cent less than what the SNP had told Scots. Without it, the Scottish budget simply would not stand up.

The basic point – ‘it’s Scotland’s oil!’ – has been the SNP refrain for years. There’s still oil in the North Sea but there’s no profit. The above graph shows how North Sea revenues – seen by the SNP as the bounty of gold that would be lavished on an independent Scotland – have evaporated. Indeed, they’re now negative: the Treasury is now propping up the sector.


If newly-independent Scotland wanted to trade and borrow like a normal, successful country, it could not start life as an economic basket case. Salmond would also have negotiated his share of UK national debt, perhaps taking a lower sum in exchange for keeping nuclear submarines at Faslane. But this would not help Alex Salmond fill the hole in his day-to-day budget. He’d need to cut spending by 18 per cent, raise taxes by 21 per cent or implement a mixture of the two.

Instead, Scotland is today safe – it’s part of the UK, the greatest alliance of nations in history, nations that pool their resources and their risk to help each other get through times like these. As Alistair Darling so rightly said: better together.


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