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Independence 'must switch focus'

SNP growth guru admits party was wrong on oil

Andrew WilsonOne of the SNP’s key figures has admitted the pre-referendum claims over oil revenues were wrong. 

In comments broadcast in a radio interview, Andrew Wilson – who chairs the party’s Growth Commission – conceded that any future economic case for independence should not include North Sea oil revenues.

Mr Wilson (pictured) suggested that it had been a mistake to make North Sea revenues central to the economic arguments for independence ahead of the 2014 referendum.

He said any future campaign would need to balance “optimism and realism”.

The Scottish government’s White Paper on independence ahead of the 2014 referendum predicted North Sea oil revenues of between £6.8bn and £7.9bn in 2016/17 – which would have been the first year of independence if the Yes campaign had won.

In fact, oil prices plummeted and receipts to the Treasury were wiped out.

Mr Wilson, whose final report on the economy is due to be published soon, said Yes campaigners had argued ahead of the 2014 referendum that “oil was a bonus and not the basis” of the economic case for independence.

He said: “But we did have oil baked into the numbers and it was indeed a basis.

“So I can say with some certainty in terms of our own work that we’ll assume for the purposes of our projections that oil is producing zero revenues and therefore treat any revenues that we get from oil as a proper windfall to be used on intergenerational projects rather than spent on spending today.” 

The Scottish Conservatives called on the SNP leader during the referendum campaign, Alex Salmond, to admit he got it wrong.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said:  “The full scale of Alex Salmond’s bluster and evasion in the 2014 referendum campaign is finally being exposed.

“He tried to claim oil revenues would be a “bonus” to an independent Scotland.

“As his close ally Andrew Wilson has now conceded, oil revenues were ‘baked’ into their numbers and formed the ‘basis’ for an independent Scotland’s finances.

“Mr Salmond has never admitted he tried to mislead people on oil during the 2014 referendum. Now that even his own SNP colleagues are owning up, it is time he did so himself.

“If the SNP is now admitting oil is a bonus, it must set out which taxes would rise and what public services would be cut in order to fill an independent Scotland’s £15bn deficit.

“Better still, the Nationalists should stop trying to make their sums work, get on with the day job, and dump their unwanted plans for a divisive second referendum.”

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said: “Scottish Labour warned time and again during the 2014 referendum about the SNP’s rose-tinted fantasy of an independent Scotland’s finances.

“Time and again we were told we were talking Scotland down.

“But now the SNP’s own economics guru has admitted promises of a land of milk and honey were a figment of Alex Salmond’s imagination.”

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