Hamish Macdonell

New report puts price on freedom – but we are still none the wiser

You can’t put a price on freedom. Well now, it seems, you can: or rather, one senior academic has done so and his verdict? Scottish independence will cost £200 million.

On the surface, Professor Patrick Dunleavy’s conclusions on the set-up costs for an independent Scotland look good for the Nationalists.

After all, that £200 million is remarkably close to the figure Alex Salmond has been throwing around for the last week or so and some considerable distance from the £2.7 billion figure the Treasury has been bandying around.

In fact, Prof Dunleavy’s report (which was published today) makes the Treasury look pretty foolish and more than a bit amateurish.

For weeks, Danny Alexander has been warning of set-up costs of £2.7 billion for a new Scottish state – 12 times the figure that Prof Dunleavy has come up with.

But, as ever in politics, it is not as quite as simple as that (however much the Nats would like it to be).

That is because, being an academic, Prof Dunleavy from the LSE put so many caveats and cautionary warnings into his report that it is easy to understand how the costs could climb well above the £200 million figure.

Indeed, he hedged his bets so many times, it is easy for both sides to feel they can get something from his report.

For instance, he concluded:

  • The immediate start-up costs on an independent Scottish state would be about £200 million – 1-0 to the Scottish Government.
  • The longer term costs could be far higher, particularly if negotiations don’t go well while IT costs could add hundreds of millions to that original estimate – 1-1.
  • The long-term viability of a Scottish state looks “strong” – 2-1 to Salmond and Co.

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