Financial experts raise concerns over Scottish independence debate

Taxation and finance experts in Scotland have attacked the SNP’s road map to independence.

Taxation and finance experts in Scotland have attacked the SNP’s road map to independence as constituting a political manifesto rather than a serious business case for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Scotsman entitled ‘The Independence White Paper: A business plan for Scotland?’, Atholl Duncan, executive director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland, which is pledged to remain neutral during the campaign, told those attending:

“Accountants want to see the evidence. They want to see the numbers; it’s in their DNA.

“As a political document, the white paper may be deemed by some to be excellent. That’s for others to judge. But it’s not a business plan, it’s a political manifesto.”

Mr Duncan continued by raising questions over the economic impact that the SNP’s pledge to cut corporation tax by 3 per cent if Scotland opted for independence.

Raising Germany as an example of a high corporation tax economy doing well, he explained:

“The white paper says this will create 27,000 jobs, but lower corporate taxes are not necessarily the main driver. There are many other factors which influence corporate decision making about where people will locate and create jobs.

“That’s why we see a corporate tax rate of 30 per cent in Germany and yet it’s one of the UK’s main competitors for inward investment.

“While lower corporate taxes are a good thing, they don’t on their own create thousands of jobs.”

He concluded by declaring that the White Paper “raises many, many new questions.”

Picking up on the unanswered questions point, David Glen, head of tax in Scotland for Pricewaterhouse Coopers, argued that whilst there is “a certain level of detail” in the paper, it “doesn’t go to the level of detail that we all might want”.

Drawing attention to the ambiguities of statements in the paper such as a pledge not to raise the level of “general taxation”, he continued:

“What does general rate of taxation mean? Is it basic rate? Is it average rate?

“Don’t assume your tax is going to stay exactly the same. I think that insinuates that overall it might be the same but there might be some rebalancing throughout.”

The conference also heard criticism of the Better Together campaign, with calls for a firm, positive offer to be made to Scotland in the event of it rejecting independence. Declaring in no uncertain terms that he is “really hating” the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK,  Chris van der Kuyl, chairman of the computer game development company 4J Studios explained:

“For goodness’ sake would Better Together show us how we can be Better Together and how we can move forward.

“I am really hating the Better Together campaign at the moment – not because I believe they are wrong, but because I believe they are running a horrific argument of negativity and nothingness. For goodness’ sake fill the void, don’t keep promising it.”

His views echoed those of David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, who warned that as a result of a lack of detail from Better Together “there’s a business deficit because one side of the argument is not giving us any alternative at the moment”.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.