Alex Massie Alex Massie

The SNP’s rosy-tartaned independence vision comes unstuck

In 2013, the Scottish National Party claimed an independent Scotland would be the sixth richest country on earth. Like many extravagant suggestions, this contained the essence of its own downfall. It would be lovely if it were true but didn’t it seem just a tiny bit too good to be true?

At the same time, and for the next 18 months or so, SNP politicians assured the Scottish people that there was no need to worry about the economic case for independence. They had the numbers to prove it. Granted, no one was ever encouraged to ask awkward questions about the assumptions made to generate this rosy-tartaned vision. For instance, what level of immigration would be needed to compensate for a population ageing more rapidly than the UK as a whole? Upon what basis, precisely, was the assumption of annual productivity growth over 20 years made? And, above all, perhaps, what if the cheerful predictions made about future oil revenues turned out to be mistaken? Those predictions deserve to be remembered. The Scottish government’s preferred figures foresaw revenues of around £8bn in the first year of independence. Actual revenues? Essentially zero.

It’s true that other forecasters’ estimates also proved too optimistic. But none were nearly so optimistic as the figures promised by the Scottish government. Those estimates were, generally speaking, 50 per cent higher than those offered by anyone else.

And all the while we were assured, time and time again, that oil was not the basis of the Scottish economy. Why, it only contributed (in good years) something like 15 per cent of the total tax take. As Alex Salmond said, time and time again, ‘We’re on the cusp of a second oil boom. Oil, Nicola Sturgeon assured us, time and time again, was ‘a bonus’. Even

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