The letter below was published in the Times 10 May 2011. It is extremely important that the debate on independence for Scotland is conducted on the basis that Scotland will not be allowed to walk away from the financial obligations of the UK. Left to his own devices Cameron will almost certainly be willing to sell-out English interests, for example, by developing a formula which did not require Scotland to take a share of the UK’s financial obligations based on their proportion of the UK population but on some spurious calculation based on need (think Barnett Formula) or a continuation of the English subsidy to Scotland for years as a “transition” payment.
Cameron was asked at Prime Minister’s Question on 11 May 2011 to confirm that the Scotland would, in the event of independence, be expected to take on a share of the UK National Debt and cease to receive any subsidy from England. He confirmed that this was the case – you could hear the reluctance in his voice – but then said that he did not want to campaign against independence by threatening the Scots, but by persuading them that staying in the Union was the best thing for all concerned. It was very telling that Cameron thought that the mention of Scotland taking on part of the National Debt and the ending of the English subsidy constituted threats. This matter needs close watching.
Sir – I have no visceral objection to Scotland leaving the Union provided the Scots meet their UK financial obligations. This means taking on a share proportionate to Scotland’s percentage of the UK population of the UK’s financial obligations existing at the point
of independence. These obligations would include the National Debt; all public sector pensions; all PFI/PPP contracts and any other public debt not covered by the previous categories.
The English subsidy to Scotland – currently around £8 billion a year – should cease and the division of the UK oil and gas fields would be decided on the UN Law of the Sea which defines territorial waters as those within a line drawn at the angle of the border of two countries. That would place a significant amount of oil and gas in English waters. In
addition, the many English public sector jobs which have been moved to Scotland should be repatriated.
NB On the day my letter was published, there were several other letters in the Times which also dwelt on the question of Scotland taking on a proportionate share of the UK’s financial obligations. This may be a signal that the Murdoch papers have decided to push this issue.