Newly independent Scotland would see living standards decline, academic warns

Professor John Bryson said the first decades would be difficult financially.

Scottish and UK flags
Scottish and UK flags

A newly-independent Scotland could be in for “difficult years” financially, an academic has predicted.

Professor John Bryson of Birmingham University – an expert in enterprise and economic geography – used the economic track record of a newly independent Ireland as a blueprint for how Scotland would fare should it ever vote to leave the UK.

The professor said it could take 30 to 60 years for Scotland to reach a prosperous fiscal footing, with the intervening period marked by a decline in living standards and public services.

“The Scottish Government should acknowledge that post-independence would involve a long adjustment period,” he wrote in an analysis of the recent paper released by the Scottish Government on Scotland’s post-independence economy.

“I would suggest this should take between one or two generations, or between 30 and 60 years.

“These will be difficult years during which living standards and public service provision will decline as Scotland negotiates a new future with Britain and with other trading partners.

“Building a new Scotland will initially require fiscal restraint that will be reflected in a decline in public service provision.”

Issues around the border between Scotland and England, the academic said, will “take decades to solve”, while the prospectus in the paper is unachievable “this decade”.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scots should be able to vote on independence once again (PA)

Prof Bryson highlighted the importance for there to be a “rigorous and balanced assessment” of Scotland’s economy post-independence, going on to say the paper must “prove a much more balanced assessment of Scotland’s post-independence pathways”.

He added: “The current Scottish Government should acknowledge that breaking away from the UK would be difficult and that there would be immediate economic and public service consequences, and that adjustments would occur over decades rather than years.”

The paper laid out some plans around an independent Scotland’s currency, borders and more detail on a proposed £20 billion capital fund to be set up in the first decade after independence.

Speaking from Bute House, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who admitted independence did not guarantee economic prosperity for the country, said: “Fundamentally, we argue in this paper that a stronger, fairer, more sustainable economy is more possible for Scotland with independence than it ever will be with continued Westminster control.”

The document detailed the Government’s proposals for the creation of a separate Scottish pound, but the First Minister repeatedly refused to give a timescale for moving to the new currency.

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