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Ministers should tell Scots they will be denied access to fighter aircraft, warships and any other physical government assets if an independent Scotland refuses to take on a share of UK debt, according to the chairman of the influential Scottish affairs committee.
Ian Davidson has entered the debate on Scotland’s currency, urging ministers to tell Scottish voters that they should not expect to receive crucial pieces of kit if their government does not agree to help repay British debt.
Mr Davidson told the Financial Times: “It is difficult to imagine the UK handing over assets such as warships, aircraft and other military equipment when the Scottish share of the borrowing that has helped pay for these items is not being repaid.”
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has threatened not to take on any existing debt unless Scotland is allowed to join a currency union with the rest of the UK, something all three Westminster parties have ruled out.
Mr Davidson has also asked a group of prominent Scottish economists to testify this week on the issues of currency and debt.
The group, led by Jim Spowart, the financial services executive, complained in the FT earlier this month that they had not been asked to testify to the committee on the future of the sector.
Writing in today’s FT, Mr Davidson has responded, saying: “Hopefully, they can tell us what the currency arrangements will be in a separate Scotland, given that the UK, in its own interests as well as Scotland’s, has ruled out a formal sterling currency union.”
Scottish voters are increasingly sceptical of the economic claims being made by nationalists, according to research published on Tuesday. The annual Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found that 44 per cent of people thought the economy would be worse after independence, up 10 points on the previous year.
But this scepticism does not seem to be hurting the independence cause, which is up three points on last year to 33 per cent. That figure rises to 39 per cent once undecided voters are excluded, according to the poll of 1,339 people.
The Yes campaign remains a long way behind though, with more regular polls showing a distinct bounce for the pro-union cause since the televised debate between Mr Salmond and Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign, last week. A YouGov poll for The Sun on Monday gave the No campaign a 20-point lead. Mr Salmond tried to put a gloss on that finding, saying: “I relish the position of the underdog. It’s the best position to be in, in a campaign.”
Meanwhile, coalition ministers will on Tuesday attempt to press home their advantage as Danny Alexander, the Treasury chief secretary, unveils a £348m contract to build warships on the river Clyde. Such contracts would be at risk under independence, ministers have warned, putting hundreds of jobs in the Glasgow dockyards in jeopardy.
The No campaign has repeatedly been criticised for being too negative, but the latest results from the survey suggest scepticism about the benefits of leaving the UK has grown and an increasing identification with Britishness.
More people now believed that independence would leave Scotland with a weaker voice in the world, a striking reversal since 2012, the survey found.
Voters also appeared to be more sceptical about the benefits of leaving the UK when it comes to national pride, inequality, financial stability and personal finances, said ScotCen Social Research, which conducted the survey.
“In every case the proportion who think that independence would be beneficial has fallen and/or the proportion who think it would be harmful has increased,” it said.
The gender gap on the constitutional issue has also widened, with women markedly less likely to support independence than men.
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