Gove orders televised debate with SNP as new report scuppers Sturgeon’s independence dream

Nicola Sturgeon ‘doesn’t want independence’ says Nigel Farage

This week, a report suggested independence would cost every Scottish citizen as much as £3,000 a year. Ms Sturgeon was told she cannot expect a huge dividend even is Scotland rejoined the EU, with the report suggesting such an outcome would make no difference.

Academics from the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance warned the cost of independence would be two or three times greater than Brexit.

Following the report, Michael Russell, President of the SNP, tweeted: “The LSE report on the increased costs in trade for an independent Scotland is based on unsubstantiated data and absurd assumptions.”

Now, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has challenged the SNP to a debate the report and called for BBC Scotland to facilitate.

He tweeted: “I look forward to my good friend Mike debating the authors of the report – perhaps BBC Scotland could facilitate?”

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The authors of the study, Hanwei Huang, Thomas Sampson and Patrick Schneider, warned the economic impact of Scottish independence could take longer than Brexit to deal with.

Professor Huang said: “This analysis shows that, at least from a trade perspective, independence would leave Scotland considerably poorer than staying in the United Kingdom.

“While many considerations will play a role in shaping the outcome of a second referendum, voters need to know what the likely costs and benefits of each will be.

“This briefing contributes to that knowledge.”

Professor Sampson added: “We find that the costs of independence to the Scottish economy are likely to be two to three times greater than the costs of Brexit.

“Moreover, rejoining the EU following independence would do little to mitigate these costs, and in the short run would probably lead to greater economic losses than maintaining a common economic market with the rest of the UK.”

The report added how the losses from independence were similar regardless of whether an independent Scotland rejoins the EU or maintains a common market with the UK.

This week, Ms Sturgeon’s 11-point “road map” towards a second referendum outlined a legal referendum will take place after the coronavirus pandemic if a pro-independence majority is elected into Parliament in May.

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However, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross attacked the proposal, saying people were “absolutely deluded” if they thought a referendum should be held this year amid the pandemic.

He said: “That’s what the SNP say they will do if they get a majority.

“We’ve got their constitution minister Mike Russell, one of Nicola Sturgeon’s most senior advisers, saying he wants a referendum before Christmas.”

Mr Ross continued: “So we’re speaking now in the next 10 months the SNP, with what we’re going through, all these challenges to get on top of this virus and then the economic response which is going to take years of recovery, the SNP want a referendum, a wildcat referendum, in a matter of months’ time before the end of the year.

“I just think that’s wholly irresponsible, unacceptable and the fact that they would even threaten to have an illegal referendum shows that’s where their priority is.

“It’s not in standing up for Scottish jobs, for helping Scottish businesses, for supporting communities, it’s simply about supporting the SNP’s aims for separation above all else.

“I’m clear I don’t want another referendum, I don’t support the uncertainty and division that would cause.

“But even if we get through the health emergency in the next few months, and I hope the SNP take on board the criticisms of their sluggish vaccine rollout and actually up the ante.

“Even if they get through that, if everything with a fair wind behind us, the Scottish Fiscal Commission last Thursday predicted that our economy in Scotland wouldn’t be back to pre-Covid levels until 2024.

“So this isn’t an issue that’s just going to go away when we get through the health emergency, we then have the economic response to this pandemic.

“And if anyone thinks that we should be distracted by a divisive referendum in the next few months or years rather than focusing on our economic recovery, I think they’re absolutely deluded and they have simply the wrong priorities for Scotland.”

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