By Lynda Williamson
George Osborne will visit Aberdeen today ostensibly to pay tribute to the “brave” men and women who work in the oil industry and to give his condolences to the families of the victims of the recent North Sea helicopter crash off Shetland.
The Chancellor is also expected take the opportunity to reveal a treasury report which estimates that staying within the UK single market could boost Scotland's economy by as much as £5 billion over the next 30 years (approximately £66 per household per year).
In his speech to oil industry executives he will argue that political borders have a detrimental effect on trade and migration, even when trade agreements and structures are in place and no physical border exists. Mr Osborne will cite the relationships between Canada and the USA, and Germany and Austria as proof of what he calls the “border effect”.
The report will also claim that Scottish independence would create “significant headwinds” to economic growth resulting in an 80% decrease in exports from Scotland to the UK.
Commenting on the report deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon accused Mr Osborne of making “false promises” to voters in Scotland saying:
“Westminster's economic policies have seen key industries close down, communities abandoned and generations of Scots let down whilst making the UK the fourth most unequal country in the developed world.
“The Tories are trying to take the people of Scotland for fools if they think families facing real hardship will buy fantasy promises from George Osborne.
“As an independent country, in a single market not just with the rest of UK but with the European Union – a position threatened by Westminster- we will finally be able to make our own decisions, to support our key industries, our workforce and to counteract the economic imbalance caused by London based economic policy.”
Ms Sturgeon also suggested that Mr Osborne was not the best person to make the case against independence for Scotland as the Chancellor is “deeply unpopular” here.
Supporters of the Yes campaign have questioned the value of a report that seeks to forecast economic conditions so far in advance, pointing out that the Treasury's record of accuracy in such predictions is not impressive. The anti-independence movement has been accused of diversionary tactics designed to distract from the fundamental question of where best to make political decisions for Scotland.
The report is the latest in a series of studies carried out by civil servants at Whitehall which are designed to refute the case for independence.