'An independent Scotland would be one of the richest countries in the world'

SCOTLAND is a wealthy country.

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That is the one key fact which simply can't be disputed despite the recent flurry of figures about Scotland's economic prospects as an independent nation.

The paper that John Swinney prepared for the Scottish Cabinet around a year ago, and which has now been published, shows how seriously the Scottish Government is preparing for the prospect of a Yes vote in the referendum next year.

That is important because, as the paper itself says, "Scotland has nothing to fear and everything to gain" from independence.

As the latest official figures published last week show beyond any doubt, Scotland is not just a wealthy country – we are also in a stronger position than the UK as a whole.

According to these official figures, known as Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland or GERS for short, Scotland was better off than the rest of the UK by £4.4billion in 2011/12 – that is equivalent to £824 for every person living in Scotland.

GERS also shows that Scotland more than pays her way in the UK - we contribute 9.9% of UK taxes but get only 9.3% of UK spending.

The debt that an independent Scotland would start out with – a legacy of the economic mismanagement of successive UK governments – would amount to a smaller proportion of our national wealth than is the case for the UK as a whole.

Scottish spending on social protection – pensions and benefits, for example – also accounts for a smaller proportion of our wealth than in the UK. In other words, these important social benefits would be more affordable in an independent Scotland, not less.

Much has also been made of the importance of oil to Scotland's economy.

To listen to those in the No campaign, you would think that having oil reserves worth £1.5trillion was some kind of problem.

It is a huge asset. The surge in investment we see in the North Sea, coupled with rising prices mean that the early days of an independent Scotland – if we vote Yes – will coincide with the next big oil boom.

But, even so, our economy is less dependent on oil than the big success story that is Norway.

Norway has invested its oil wealth instead of allowing it to be squandered - a lesson that Scotland surely must learn for our next generation of oil revenues.

With such overwhelming evidence of wealth, no wonder the No campaign want to distract attention and peddle the same old myths about Scotland being too small and too poor to be independent.

The reality, though, is that people are not stupid. An independent Scotland would be one of the richest countries in the world.

Therefore, the real question every voter in Scotland must ask themselves between now and autumn next year is whether, given all these facts, Scotland can afford not to be independent.

Finance

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