SCOTTISH independence could boost the north of England’s economy, according to a leading think tank. The claim by Common Weal challenges the generally held negative assumption that an independent Scotland would take business away from the north of England.

“Shared economic interests mean Scottish independence could enhance, not threaten, the north’s economy – this must be part of the independence debate,” Common Weal director Robin McAlpine says in a written contribution to the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute today.

McAlpine argues that the notion that an independent Scotland would harm the economy of the north of England is based on the view that economic success is a limited resource.

He points out that many independence supporters are interested in developing a different kind of economic model based on sustainable production and enhanced product- ivity which could benefit the north of England as well as Scotland.

This model could lead to a “northern quality trade zone” while a new Scottish national investment bank would be likely to invest in the north of England.

In addition, a cost competitive Scottish renewables industry could extend smart grid technology to the north of England and work on reducing reliance on the southern finance industry’s “obsession” with nuclear power stations.

Scotland and the north of England could co-invest in major development projects and if the latter achieved sufficient devolution alongside Scottish independence, the economic aims of both would be more in tune with each other than with London, says McAlpine.

He pours scorn on the idea of border guards, saying there could easily be a modern system of “smart borders” which would allow goods, services and people to travel with the freedom they do now. In the end, it comes down to where the shared economic interests lie.

“Only two UK regions – London and the south-east – have achieved above-average UK growth rates in the last decade, and in the case of the south-east only by a whisker,” McAlpine states. “The UK economy has been shaped to suit the financial and property speculation (and population expansion) which has created so much wealth in London.

“If there was willingness from people in the north of England then I’d argue for a shared industrial strategy spanning the border.

“There are a world of things this might include such as much better transport links, joint public infrastructure projects, shared investment plans, strategies for integrating supply chains and much more.” McAlpine goes on to point out that the previous Scottish Government policy of lowering corporation tax below England’s did not help the perception that Scotland was pitting itself against the north of England.

Independence supporters do share a part of the blame if people in the north of England think that Scottish independence is a threat – and it is our job to now reassure them,” he goes on. “I am among many who want to see a different relationship with our closest neighbours in the north of England.

“Indeed, having seen the economic neglect with which London has treated much of the north, I am genuinely angry and would like an independent Scotland to help in ways London hasn’t.”

Dr Scott Lavery, a research fellow at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute agrees that the UK’s economic model is “highly dysfunctional” and fails both Scotland and the north of England.

“Since 2008, UK workers have experienced the sharpest fall in wages of any country in Europe with the exception of Greece,” he states. “Savings have collapsed, productivity remains stagnant and household debt is projected to increase.

“By 2022, both Scotland and the north of England are expected to see their share of UK output fall by 0.7 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively. New thinking and collaboration between Scotland and the north is therefore necessary.

“The dysfunctional UK economic model is driven by the centralisation of both economic and political power.

“Unless there is a new approach, London – the only UK city region to have surpassed pre-crisis levels of output – will continue to absorb economic activity, drawing in capital, esources and talent while consol- idating deep regional inequality and imbalances.”

Lavery’s research focuses on the evolving relationship between British and European capitalism and on UK’s national growth model.