Break-up 'will cost Scots £140bn': Warning on price of independence as just one third of Scots back change
- Government sources say economic implications of breakup will feature heavily in a No campaign to Scottish independence referendum
- Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling to join forces with the Coalition in joint-effort to save the 300-year-old Union
- More than 30% of Scots back split as a third of English and Welsh voters quizzed in poll say Scotland should go it alone
An independent Scotland will be saddled with a crippling national debt of at least £140billion, Scots are to be warned as the battle to keep the United Kingdom together gathers pace.
As David Cameron taunted Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond for seeking to delay an independence referendum for two-and-a-half years, Government sources said the economic implications of a break-up would feature heavily in a future No campaign.
The latest spat comes as a poll revealed a third of Scots back the dissolution of the union, a figure that is mirrored across England and Wales.
The Scottish National party and its leader Alex Salmond, pictured right accused Mr Cameron, pictured left, of dictating the terms of a referendum to Scotland
The YouGov poll for The Sun showed that 33% of Scots questioned backed independence while 53% were against and 14% stated that they were undecided.
In England and Wales 33% of those polled said that they backed the split though only 37% claimed they were against independence for Scotland. A total of 30% remained undecided.
This latest poll indicated that support
for independence across Scotland has grown since Salmond's Scottish
National Party swept to a landslide victory last May when just 28% were in favour.
In an indication of the prominence the
economy will play, former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling is being
lined up to head a cross-party effort to preserve the 300-year-old union
between England and Scotland.
SCOTS MORE KEEN FOR SCOTLAND TO STAY IN UNION THAN ENGLISH
More than half of Scottish voters want to remain in the United Kingdom, according to a poll released today.
Some 54 per cent of people in Scotland questioned by Ipsos Mori for the thinktank British Future said they wanted to stay in the Union - compared to just 29 per cent who backed independence.
The poll, released as the Government, set out its position on the terms of any referendum on independence and also showed similar majorities in both England and Wales in favour of Scotland staying in the UK.
According to the survey, voters north of the border are slightly more enthusiastic about preserving the Union than people in England or Wales.
Some 48 per cent of those questioned in England backed the Union, against 27 per cent who supported independence for Scotland.
In Wales, 41 per cent wanted Scotland to stay in the UK, while 29 per cent said it should become independent.
Support for the Union was stronger among older people, with six out of 10 over-55s wanting Scotland to stay in the UK, compared to four out of 10 of those aged 16-44.
Independence for Scotland was more popular among men (32 per cent) than women (23 per cent).
And middle-class professionals were more likely to want to keep the Union (53 per cent) than those in lower skilled posts (46 per cent) or unskilled jobs (44 per cent).
Ipsos Mori interviewed 2,320 people acrossGreat Britain between November 30 and December 6, including 497 in Scotland.
Ministers are also considering asking a Royal Commission to investigate the implications of independence – including for the national debt, North Sea oil, the British Armed Forces, Scotland’s currency, the future of the Scotland-based nuclear deterrent, and whether a diminished UK could keep its seat on the UN Security Council.
Economists say an independent Scotland would have to take drastic steps to further curb public spending or risk a debt crisis like those in Greece and Portugal, which have towering sovereign debts.
UK national debt is forecast to hit around £1.4trillion by 2014, when Mr Salmond says he wants to hold an independence referendum. At around 10 per cent of the UK total, Scotland’s allocation of public spending is higher than its share of population.
If its share of the national debt is allocated on this basis, it will be saddled with debts of around £140billion. English Tory MPs say an independent Scotland should also be made to take back the £187billion in toxic assets of the Royal Bank of Scotland, currently held by the Treasury.
Mr Cameron said yesterday he
‘passionately’ believed in preserving the Union and mocked Mr Salmond’s
suggestion that the poll should take place in autumn 2014, shortly after
the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, Scotland’s most
famous military victory over England.
The Prime Minister told MPs: ‘Frankly,
I am sad we are even having this debate, because I support the United
Kingdom so strongly, but we have to respect the fact that Scotland voted
for a separatist party at the Scottish parliamentary elections.’
He said he was ‘looking forward’ to the debate, and mocked the SNP for seeking to delay the poll, telling MPs: ‘I sometimes think when I listen to them that it is not a referendum they want, it’s a neverendum.’
Scotland's nationalist government reacted with fury yesterday to the Prime Minister's attempts to wrestle control back from First Minister Alex Salmond (pictured right)
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: ‘We believe the United Kingdom benefits the people of Scotland and the people of the rest of the United Kingdom in equal measure. We are stronger together and weaker apart.’
Mr Salmond said the Prime Minister should ‘butt out’ of an issue for Scottish people and claimed his intervention had provoked a ‘huge adverse reaction... to the Thatcheresque idea that Downing Street knows best’.
The First Minister risked being branded anti-English after telling Westminster politicians to ‘stay home and think again’.
Scotland’s unofficial national anthem, Flower Of Scotland, includes the lyrics ‘sent him homeward to think again’ in a reference to Robert the Bruce’s victory over England’s Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Mr Salmond suggested he wanted to open talks with Westminster on holding a legally binding referendum.
Initial contacts between officials are thought to have started already, and Mr Cameron is expected to visit Scotland in the next few weeks.
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