NICOLA Sturgeon has denied that an independent Scotland would have to pursue a programme of austerity as she hit back at conclusions made by economists.

The First Minister was responding to remarks made by a senior member of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) who said the new state would have to implement a more stringent form of “austerity” than the vision outlined in the SNP’s Growth Commission because of the pandemic.

David Phillips, associate director at the IFS warned that the country would be left “with a relatively high budget deficit, substantially higher than the rest of the UK” in the event of a Yes vote.

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Asked about his comments at a press briefing yesterday, the SNP leader said that no updated work had been done about the financial impact of independence because the referendum was put on hold last year due to the pandemic and also because relevant modelling needed to be up to date.

“I don’t accept the use of the word austerity in relation to the Growth Commission, I never have and I don’t now,” she said. “The last year means the figures in the Growth Commission are no longer current ... Pretty much every country in the developed world has a massive deficit right now and are shouldering massive debts.

“The UK debt is more than £300 billion roughly, 15% of GDP. The UK debt is in excess of two trillion pounds. But as countries, rightly in my view have borrowed to help businesses and individuals through the pandemic debt and deficits have increased.

“So Scotland, if we were independent right now, would not be in a materially different position to countries the world over and there are no credible economists suggesting the situation is to impose austerity and to impose cuts.

“Therefore, I don’t think it’s credible to suggest that an independent Scotland would somehow be in a uniquely different position.

“We would manage the deficit in the way that other countries manage deficit, through a combination of careful spending decisions and borrowing in order to, in a way consistent with supporting the economy and supporting people, bring the deficit and debt back to reasonable levels.”

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She added that Scotland being in a worse fiscal position than the rest of the UK was an argument for independence because it showed that different decisions should be made in the country.

“Scotland’s fiscal position right now is a reflection of our position within the UK, it’s not a reflection of the decisions an independent government would take.

“So, if the argument that Scotland, with all the riches and resources and attributes that we’ve got is in a relatively worse fiscal position than the UK overall, then that strikes me as an argument for independence to get our hands on the levers of decision making so we can make better decisions than ones that have been made on our behalf for quite some time.”