LONDON May 26 Britain's finance ministry
stepped up its attack on the Scottish government's independence
plans on Monday, saying it had not fully budgeted for setting up
a new administration that could cost Scottish taxpayers over 1.5
billion pounds ($2.5 billion).
People in Scotland vote on Sept. 18 on whether to end a
307-year union with England and split from the rest of the
United Kingdom. Britain's finance ministry has repeatedly argued
that Scots would be financially worse off after independence.
On Monday, it said setting up the new public bodies such as
a Scottish tax authority, financial regulator and benefits
system would cost each Scottish household a minimum of 600
pounds, and potentially much more.
"The Scottish government is trying to leave the UK, but it
won't tell anyone how much the set-up surcharge is for an
independent Scotland," deputy finance minister Danny Alexander
He is due to present a more detailed breakdown of the
Westminster government's estimates of the costs of Scottish
independence and Scotland's budget deficit on Wednesday.
The Scottish government dismissed the report as "deeply
The British finance ministry said new institutions would
cost Scotland at least 1 percent of its annual economic output -
or 1.5 billion pounds - based on estimates made when the
Canadian province of Quebec voted on independence.
The actual cost could be far higher.
New Zealand, which has a similarly sized population and
economy to Scotland, was currently spending 750 million pounds
on a new tax system alone, while a new Scottish benefits system
would cost 400 million pounds, the finance ministry said.
A bill of 2.7 billion pounds was possible if the Scottish
government pressed ahead with plans for 180 new public bodies,
the finance ministry said, based on a cost of 15 million pounds
for each new policy department.
But the Scottish government said in a statement many of the
public bodies which would be needed by an independent Scotland
already existed and would be able to take on new functions.
The Scottish government has said it would be able to
generate stronger economic growth after independence, for
example by better targeting spending on childcare, education and
training, and cutting taxation on company profits and airfares.
It also expects to get large tax revenues from its share of
Britain's North Sea oil and gas output.
($1 = 0.5931 British Pounds)
(Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Sophie Hares)