SCOTLAND would be the richest newly independent country in history if it voted Yes, according to a leading economist.

Andrew Wilson, who chaired the SNP’s Growth Commission, made the financial and moral case for leaving the UK as he appeared on the BBC’s Debate Night show.

He said: “We’ve been told for all of my life that Scotland couldn’t afford it and that we’re subsidised.”

The former SNP MSP, who has since founded Charlotte Street Partners, set out a “reality check” on that position.

He explained: “If Scotland becomes independent in the next year – it won’t but let’s say it did) – it would be the richest country ever to become an independent country.

“Scotland’s taxation that it raises itself is enough to pay for all of the Scottish Government’s policy responsibilities, plus all of social security and all of pensions – absent Covid, in a normal year.”

“Right now is a great time to do the transition … It will not be simple. It will be hard work. But it will be worth it.

“The alternative is carrying on the way we are now. If you believe the critics we are subsidised. Is living off handouts a life? Is that the sum of our ambition as a country? No it isn’t.”

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He continued: “The UK model prioritises growth in the south east and transfers cash, the argument goes, to the regions and nations. That’s why Boris Johnson says we’ve got to level up. The best way to level up is to give people the power to look after themselves and make choices for themselves.”

Host Stephen Jardine put it to Wilson that Scotland is not in a financial position, following the Covid crisis, to join the EU because its notional deficit is above the 3% threshold set out by the EU for new members.

The former Growth Commission chief pointed out that “many countries” have been accepted by Brussels despite having a bigger deficit than 3%, provided they are on track to meet the target.

He explained: “All countries need to have sustainable finances. The question for Scotland is do you want that sustainability post-Covid led by a Conservative government you didn’t vote for, or do you want to do it yourself?”

Wilson concluded: “We shouldn’t allow criticism of the status quo to lose the ambition for making it better.”