Sturgeon warned independent Scotland would suffer £12bn black hole size of NHS budget

Nicola Sturgeon sparks furious row with independence bid

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The First Minister has ramped up her calls for a 2023 referendum on independence – something that has drawn criticism and scepticism even within the SNP. But the economic ramifications of breaking away from the UK are at the centre of heated debate in the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps.

Tony Miklinski, Scottish Conservative councillor for Cupar, Fife, told Express.co.uk that he takes “the most extreme exception” to the economic arguments of Indyref2 pushed by the First Minister.

He claimed the SNP leader “knows perfectly well what the social and economic consequences of Scottish independence would be”.

He continued: “The 12 billion pounds a year subsidiary that Scotland gets from the UK would go.

“We would have to fund that gap, which is the equivalent of the Scottish NHS budget.

“There is no way that they can replace it.

“That’s why they haven’t come up with a successful economic strategy for independence.”

“Nicola Sturgeon knows all that, and yet keeps trying to lead us over the cliff edge.”

In 2019, the Scottish NHS budget was the single biggest area of government spending, accounting for 42 percent of the Scottish Government budget between 2018 and 2019.

Just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report for 2018-2019 showed that Scotland spent £12.6 billion more than was collected in tax.

This made Scotland’s deficit more than six times larger than the UK’s, and less than a billion shy of the Scottish NHS budget for the same time period.

The report, which provides an estimate for the Scottish economy within the UK, showed that this £12.6 billion deficit was equivalent to seven percent of Scotland’s GDP, whereas the UK’s deficit sat at 1.1 percent of gross domestic product.

Mr Miklinski said: “[Scotland’s] deficit is covered by the ongoing financial transfer from the Westminster Government via the Barnett formula.”

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But “this grant would disappear on day one and the Scottish Government would need to find a way to compensate”, he said.

When the report was released, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack commented the statistics showed “Scotland benefits from being part of a strong UK”.

He added: “These Scottish Government figures also show there would be a £12.6billion black hole at the centre of an independent Scotland’s finances.”

Ms Sturgeon has circled back to the issue of independence after the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine distracted attention away from the constitutional issue.

The SNP’s commitment to a 2023 independence referendum was a staple of their election manifesto for Holyrood seats last year.

Speaking to LBC, the First Minister said: “My plans and my thinking haven’t changed.

“We, right now, should be reminded, above all else, how lucky we are to live in a free democracy where we can put forward our case for political constitutional change, argue that case passionately, whatever our views on that might be, and trust people to decide.”

But the timeline has been slapped down by senior SNP politicians, including former shadow home secretary, Joanna Cherry and ex-First Minister, Alex Salmond.

Ms Cherry said the “independence debate is stalled”, and would only move on if leaders “inject some life into it with a clear plan and a fresh prospectus”.

She added: “Scotland is in a consensual union with England.

“When we last got the chance to say whether we wanted to leave that union, the answer was No.”

The previous referendum on Scottish independence, back in 2014, was promised to be a “once in a lifetime vote”.

Referencing this pledge, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to grant Ms Sturgeon a second referendum.

Mr Johnson formally rejected the SNP’s call for a second referendum in early 2020, adding “the UK Government will continue to uphold the democratic decision of the Scottish people” eight years ago.

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