THE row over the start-up costs of an independent Scotland has deepened after Alex Salmond claimed the bill for establishing a range of new government departments and agencies could be as little as £250million.

The First Minister backed estimates by London School of Economics expert Patrick Dunleavy, who has put the cost at between £150million and £300million.

He suggested £250million was "reasonable" and would amount to a tiny fraction of an independent Scotland's estimated £100billion share of UK assets, which would be up for negotiation in the event of a Yes vote.

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Mr Salmond said: "If we were to take £250million, that's one four-hundreth of the asset share to which we are entitled. We think that's a reasonable estimate put in the context of a share of assets worth £110billion."

He declined to say whether the Scottish Government had calculated its own estimate of costs.

"I'm saying that (£250million) is a reasonable figure from an expert in the field," he said.

Mr Salmond backed the £250million figure after Finance Secretary John Swinney failed to put a figure on start-up costs despite being asked 11 times on BBC Radio Scotland's Good ­Morning Scotland programme yesterday.

A row over the bill for establishing new departments and public bodies broke out at the weekend when the Treasury used a study by Professor Dunleavy to calculate a possible cost of £2.7billion, though it said £1.5billion was more realistic.

Professor Dunleavy said the Treasury had misrepresented his work and yesterday Mr Salmond again accused UK ministers of "manipulating" its figures.

However, the First Minister's own figure was widely criticised.

In a leaked cabinet memo last year, Mr Swinney put the cost of a new tax collection system alone at between £575million and £625million - a figure close to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland's (ICAS) estimate of £750million.