Top Oxford economist changes mind to back the financial benefits of Scottish independence

Oxford economics professor: ‘Back independence for Scotland’s economy and public services’

THE ECONOMIC CASE for Scottish independence with the European single market is “much stronger” than in 2014, with the benefits for the economy and public services “almost a certainty”, according to an Oxford economist who previously opposed independence. 

Simon Wren-Lewis, Professor of economic policy at the Blavatnik School of government at Oxford University and a fellow of Merton College, said that the direction of economic policy at Westminster now made the case for a successful independent Scotland. 

“The bottom line is that the case for Scottish independence is now much stronger than it was in 2014.” Professor Simon Wren-Lewis

He admitted that he previously dismissed the argument for independence as “wishful thinking” - but added that the Tory rush towards a Hard Brexit “changes everything” in the economic argument. 

Writing his response to the new debate on Scottish independence, Professor Wren-Lewis said: “The bottom line is that the case for Scottish independence is now much stronger than it was in 2014. Then a brighter future outside the UK was patriotic wishful thinking. Now, if they can stay in the Single Market, it is almost a certainty.”

He added: “Brexit changes everything. The economic cost to the UK of leaving the EU could be as high as a reduction of 10 per cent in average incomes by 2030. If Scotland, by becoming independent, can avoid that fate then you have a clear long term economic gain right there. But it is more than that. 

“If, Scotland can remain in the Single Market it could be the destination of the foreign investment that once came to the UK as a gateway into the EU. By accepting free movement, it could benefit from the immigration that has so benefited the UK public finances over the last decade. No, that is not what you read in the papers or see on the TV, but I’m talking about the real world, not the political fantasy that seems so dominant today.”

“If, Scotland can remain in the Single Market it could be the destination of the foreign investment that once came to the UK as a gateway into the EU.” Professor Simon Wren-Lewis

Tory Brexit minister David Davis admitted today [Wednesday 15 March] that the Westminster government had no analysis of the impact of a failure to secure a Brexit deal, which would lead to bankrupting level tariffs on the agriculture sector, and a wide range of expensive tariffs on tens of billions of pounds in Scottish and UK exports. 

Professor Wren-Lewis added that independence was the clear route to protect the funding of public services like healthcare and education. 

“As the situation gets steadily worse, nothing - absolutely nothing - will be safe from continuing austerity. To be brutally honest, if the SNP loses another referendum, even the formidable Ruth Davidson will not be able to prevent Scotland being plundered by this government,” he said. 

His remarks were echoed by Nicolas Macpherson, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury at the time of the last referendum. Macpherson, who received a backlash for opposing the independence proposals while a civil servant, now says independence is a “historic opportunity” to “adopt a credible economic policy”.  

Picture courtesy of Ross G Strachan 

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