Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is determined to secure independence, but polls have offered mixed messages as to how likely this could be. In the latter half of 2020, consecutive polls found a Yes vote would lead in a hypothetical vote on independence, giving the SNP a huge political boost. But in more recent weeks, the polls have indicated that independence remains an opinion-splitting issue north of the border. A poll from Opinium for Sky News last week indicated a narrow lead for a Yes vote with 51 percent.
One key issue that could dissuade potential Yes backers is the economy, as the SNP have regularly come under fire for Scotland’s deficit in recent years.
Former BBC journalist Andrew Neil highlighted this in August last year after official accounts from the Scottish Government for 2019/20 showed the country earned a total of £66billion in taxes while total public spending was £81billion – a deficit of £15billion.
As Mr Neil pointed out this fact, he added that “Scotland spends £15billion more than it gathers in taxes – and Westminster makes up the difference. It also reveals you headed into the Covid crisis with a deficit of eight percent of GDP.”
This attracted a furious response from SNP MSP James Dornan, who replied: “Andrew you know that is just not true. We are assigned spending for all sorts that we have no control over, do not want or do not benefit from. And if it was true what sort of advert is it for continuing to be part of the UK?”
Mr Neil responded by outlining that 40 percent (£32billion) of state spending in Scotland is done by Westminster, of which £25billion goes on pensions and social security.
The journalist argued that Scotland does in fact benefit from Westminster funding.
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Mr Dornan fired back: “And we don’t contribute in taxes Andrew? It may be done by Westminster but it’s our money they are using, and that is the issue, our money is being used to create the worst welfare system in Western Europe. Not how we would do it at all.”
But Mr Neil reiterated Scotland’s deficit, saying: “You don’t contribute anything like enough in taxes to cover spending. Total Scottish tax take is £66billion. Total state spending is £81billion. Shortfall: £15billion. A gap not filled from your money. You should know this: they’re Scot Gov stats.”
Before the 2017 general election, Mr Neil questioned Ms Sturgeon on the economics of independence.
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The journalist took the Scottish First Minister to task at the time, claiming independence could cause a “financial disaster” in Scotland.
Mr Neil said: “The Scottish economy is now growing at less than a quarter of the pace of the UK economy, it could be on the brink of recession.
Ms Sturgeon responded by pinning Scotland’s economic challenges on the decline of oil prices.
She said: “Yes, we’ve seen some growth slow – the UK as a whole has seen growth slowing.
“We’ve also had the issues with North Sea oil and gas, which has fed through the Scottish supply chain.”