Independence white paper: Seconds out, round two

Posted on 27/11/2013 by

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‘Rarely have so many words been used to answer so little’

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael says the independence white paper is a ‘wish list not a price list’ and has called on the Scottish Government to share their figures for the cost of independence with the Scottish people.

Meanwhile First Minister Alex Salmond has said that enhanced childcare entitlement, one of the key commitments of the independence mission statement, would only be possible in an independent Scotland.

MSPs will debate the white paper at Holyrood this afternoon.

The 670 page independence white paper provides no answers on crucial questions like currency, pensions and the cost of independence, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said.

‘Rarely have so many words been used to answer so little’, said Mr Carmichael following the publication of the paper.

He also expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government had deliberately sought to ignore the uncertainties and difficulties of independence.   He said it was astonishing that the Scottish Government had refused to put a price tag on independence even though their private cabinet paper had discussed costs.

Mr Carmichael said: “This was their chance to level with people. They have chosen a different path and people will judge them on that.

“For years we have been promised that all the answers on independence would be in the white paper. The big day has finally arrived and we have 670 pages that leaves us none the wiser on crucial questions such as currency, pensions and the cost of independence. Rarely have so many words been used to answer so little.

“People will draw their own conclusions that the Scottish Government have deliberately sought to ignore the uncertainties and difficulties of independence. We are simply expected to believe that everything will be perfect after we leave the UK.  We are asked to accept that ending a 300 year United Kingdom will be straightforward. We are told it will all be alright on the night.

“We know that the terms of independence would  need to be negotiated with many countries including the rest of the UK and the EU. An honest assessment of the challenges and uncertainties of leaving the UK would have seriously helped the debate between now and September. Instead we have been given a wish with no price list. Today was their chance to level with people. They have chosen a different path and people in Scotland will judge them on that.

“It is astonishing that the Scottish Government can sit in private discussing the costs of independence and then refuse to share those figure with the Scottish people. John Swinney’s leaked paper said it would cost £600m every year to run an independent tax system but today we saw nothing about that.

“It looks more and more  like the Scottish Government will continue to keep these things private. If they had convincing answers then today really would have been the day to share them with everyone. From now until September 18th we will keep making the positive case for the UK. It works well for Scotland. It gives us the best of both worlds. It offers us a better future. We will fight hard to preserve it against those who have been obsessed with independence for their entire political lives but now seek to disguise it.”

‘transformational change in childcare’

Improved childcare entitlements is one of the most eye-catching sections in the white paper – and would be very popular – but some critics have suggested that the Scottish Government could act now to improve childcare and need not wait for independence.

The Scottish Government says families will save up to an estimated £4,600 per child, per year under plans to extend childcare to every child from the age of one. The proposed entitlement in an independent Scotland is for 30 hours of childcare each week – the same number of hours as a child in school.

The move would benefit around 240,000 children, 212,000 families and has the additional benefit of allowing more women to return to work by removing the barrier of childcare costs.

Implementation would be phased and the proposal will see the workforce expand in line with the hours, creating up to 35,000 jobs in the childcare sector, mainly for women.

The Holyrood government says independence offers the opportunity to bring in this proposal as tax revenues generated by more women returning to work will stay in Scotland. Under devolution, increases in tax revenues – and savings from reduced benefits claims – go to Westminster.

Speaking ahead of a debate on ‘Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’ in the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“Independence would enable us to bring about a transformational change in childcare. The early years are the most crucial years in a child’s development. Our plan will provide high quality childcare that is both flexible and affordable for parents.

“Our current childcare costs are lower than the rest of the UK but every working family with children knows it is a real burden on the family finances. Improving access to quality childcare will not just benefit children – it will help many more women into work.

“At the moment, without all the powers of independence, we have managed to prioritise childcare and are increasing the number of hours from 412.5 to 600.

“Independence offers us the powers to go much further.  If we matched, for example, the female labour market participation of Sweden, this would generate an extra £700 million in tax revenue. As we progressively expand childcare, the tax revenue generated would pay for further expansion. Without independence, however, that revenue would leave Scotland, go to Westminster and not be available to fund the further expansion we need.

“With independence, we would keep this revenue here in Scotland to reinvest it in childcare for all, a model we know from countries such as Netherlands works well for children’s development, female participation in the labour market and the wider economy.

“This transformational change in childcare will help give children the best start in life, allow parents to choose to work without worrying about costs and create up to 35,000 new jobs. This is just one of the many opportunities to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country through independence.”

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