Home U.K. SNP shamed: Sturgeon accused of 'misleading' electorate over TRUE cost of independence

SNP shamed: Sturgeon accused of ‘misleading’ electorate over TRUE cost of independence

Scottish businessman Kevin Hague, chairman of the pro-Union think tank These Islands, also warned Scotland could not rely on oil revenue to prop it up if it broke away from the UK – and argued if it succeeded and tried to join the EU, the bloc would bring it to heel by insisting on financial independence. A poll published by Panelbase earlier this month suggested 54 percent would support independence, with 46 percent backing the Union, increasing talk of a second independence referendum – but Mr Hague believes Scots are not being given the full picture.

It’s not ‘head in the sand’ – it’s actively trying to deceive the electorate

Kevin Hague

Dividing advocates into two broad camps, he told Express.co.uk: “There are those people, which would include senior members of the SNP, who absolutely understand that these would be the implications of independence, and are actively trying to mislead the electorate, and they are the ones who I find completely unforgivable.

“Anybody in the SNP finance team knows that independence would lead to levels of austerity that would make the recent austerity look like a walk in the park.

“It’s not ‘head in the sand’ – it’s actively trying to deceive the electorate.

“There is another swathe of people in the country who aren’t invested in understanding the fine detail.

“I’m not sure it is fair to say their heads are in the sand either – they are being told by politicians that Scotland is being unfairly treated by the rest of the UK and therefore they want to be independent.

Nicola Sturgeon is misleading the electorate over the cost of independence, said Kevin Hague (Image: GETTY)

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“There are those misleading and those being misled.”

Turning his attention to the First Minister, and leader of the SNP, Mr Hague added: “Nicola Sturgeon is definitely one of the misleaders – her championing of independence is misleading her supporters.

“Her entire political career has been focused on breaking up the UK. And therefore she will say whatever she thinks she needs to say to make that happen.

“She is a very good political reformer and she has shown that through the pandemic, she is very good on the podium, she emotes well, she thinks on her feet, she is articulate, she is frankly everything Boris Johnson is and so she is trusted.

“And that is what really upsets me, is that she is a good politician who has built trust, and she is betraying that trust when she tries to tell voters that if Scotland was independent everything would be fine and we would not need massive public spending cuts.”

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Mr Hague added: “I would say it is more cynical than reckless. Somebody like Nicola Sturgeon does not really care what the economic impact of independence would be – because independence has to come first.

“She wants to be independent and then deal with the economic implications because Scotland will be free.

“That is the way existential nationalists think. But what they do to persuade people who do not share their belief in nationalism, is they lie about the economic impact because they know if they were honest they would not carry a majority.”

In an analysis published on the These Islands website this week, and prior to that, on discussion website Reaction, Mr Hague claims Scotland benefits from an annual fiscal transfer of £10billion, a figure which he said had been growing steadily since 2011.

Mr Hague, using historical data gathered via the Scottish National Accounts Project (SNAP) and Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS), suggested Scotland had gone from being a net contributor in the 1980s, thanks to the revenue from North Sea oil, to being a net beneficiary to the tune of £2,000 per head every year.

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Scotland is far from alone in benefiting in this way, and in fact, Mr Hague, using figures from the Office for National Statistics’ Country & Region Public Sector Finances report for 2018-19, argues Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East of England actually received significantly more per head.

However, crucially, the data shows only Northern Ireland has comparably high levels of public spending, with both spending roughly £2,000 per head more compared with the UK average, with most areas of England spending significantly below the median figure of £9,584. In Scotland, the figure was £11,247, and in Northern Ireland £11,590.

Mr Hague said: “The key point for me is it does not matter to a Scottish nationalist whether money is going from Scotland to the rest of the UK, effectively England, or whether it is coming from England to Scotland.

“They will just use it as an excuse for independence.

“They will either say it is our oil, we subsidise the rest of the UK and therefore we should be independent, or the rest of the UK subsidises us, therefore the system’s broken and we should still be independent.”

Considering the SNP’s argument, Mr Hague added: “The problem is – and this is what I don’t think those defending the Union have done a very good job of doing – is pointing out the only reason more money goes to Scotland is not because Scotland does not generate the tax revenues, it’s because Scotland spends more.

“It is just expensive to deliver public services in Scotland. It is incredible that the fact that more money is spent in Scotland for Scottish people is used by the nationalists as a reason to want to break away.

“It makes no sense at all and what they do not do is honestly say ‘if we are we won’t be able to afford to spend that much on public services in Scotland’.

“It’s not that they couldn’t be independent, it’s that they would have to slash public services.

“It’s public services, pensions, benefits, education, health. These are all things that require real money to be spent and Scotland would have less capacity to spend on those services if they broke away from the UK.

“You could say fine I still want to be independent. I could respect that view but be honest about the fact that you are asking people to vote for public services cuts.”

Looking to the future, Mr Hague said: “Scotland can’t rely on oil revenue in the future either, nor can they rely on the European Union.

“The EU is not like the UK. If Scotland was in the EU Scotland would have to be fiscally autonomous.

“Scotland deficits would not be allowed to run at the levels it has run at for the last 20 years as part of the EU.

“In the EU you have to meet the deficit criteria – just ask Greece.

“The EU would not bail Scotland out, they would say you have to be fiscally responsible.

“So they can’t bank on oil revenue and they can’t rely on the EU because that is not the EU’s model.

“So what they do is rely on not talking about it – they just avoid the subject.”

Bookmaker Coral is currently offering oddd of 3-1 on a Scottish Independence referendum taking place by the end of 2021.

Express.co.uk has contacted the SNP to ask whether they, or Mrs Sturgeon, wanted to comment on Mr Hague’s remarks.

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