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The UK Treasury is stepping up its drive against Scottish independence with a speech by chief secretary Danny Alexander that dubs nationalist assertions on future state finances as “at best ill-informed and, at worst, deeply misleading”.
The escalation of pressure highlights pro-union campaigners’ nervousness about opinion polls that show growing support for a Yes vote in September’s referendum.
But previous UK government attempts to discredit the independence vision laid out by the Scottish government last November have had little impact on the polls and the renewed effort risks alienating undecided voters who already think the No campaign is too negative.
In a speech in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Mr Alexander will dismiss Scottish government forecasts for revenues from North Sea oil and gas as much too optimistic, question an independent Scotland’s ability to sustain its banking sector and insist the UK would refuse to share the pound in a formal currency union.
“The Scottish government must confront the fact that it is promising tax revenues and public spending that it cannot deliver,” Mr Alexander is expected to say.
Mr Alexander’s speech is a prelude to publication in coming weeks of an addition to a series of UK government papers that make the case for continued union. The Treasury says the new report, the product of months of work by its staff, will apply costs to Scottish government pledges in the context of smaller than expected revenues.
Pro-union campaigners say particular weaknesses of the Scottish government include its insistence that an independent state could continue to share the Bank of England and other UK institutions and expectations of oil revenues that do not take account of recent falls in tax receipts.
However, nationalists say such criticism ignores the fact that Scotland would have human, financial and physical resources to prosper outside the UK and that it will be in Westminster’s interests to co-operate closely after independence.
Scottish gross domestic product and tax income would be larger per capita than of the UK as a whole, even when reduced income from the North Sea is included.
John Swinney, Scotland’s finance secretary, called on the Treasury to offer details of Scotland’s share of UK assets, some of which would be likely to be transferred to Edinburgh in the form of cash payments that could run to many billions of pounds.
“To have a shred of credibility any Westminster analysis should also set out in detail the assets that will be due to Scotland in the event of a vote for independence in September,” Mr Swinney said in a statement.