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Osborne: North Sea bill will rocket without UK's broad shoulders

THE cost to Scots of cleaning up the North Sea will rocket 12-fold under independence from just over £300 per person to £3800, George Osborne will warn today.

Launching Whitehall's fifth analysis paper on the potential consequences of a Yes vote in next year's referendum, the Chancellor will argue that only thanks to the UK's "broad shoulders", which enable it to pool the risks and share the gains, can Scotland benefit fully from the North Sea's vast national resource without relying on what is an inherently volatile tax base to fund spending on public services under independence.

But John Swinney hit back, saying Mr Osborne's "rank hypocrisy" was breathtaking. "It was his decision in 2011 to place a hugely damaging £2 billion tax raid on oil companies that put investment on hold. His credibility in the north-east is in tatters and people will not take kindly to a Tory Chancellor coming north yet again to talk Scotland down."

Saying Whitehall's claims did not stand up to scrutiny, the Finance Secretary added: "North Sea oil is a bonus, not the basis for Scotland's economy, and with up to 24 billion barrels of oil left worth an estimated £1.5 trillion, it will continue to contribute to the wealth of Scotland for a long time to come."

The Treasury's analysis will say there would be two fundamental fiscal consequences if Scotland became an independent country.It says that since devolution oil revenues have varied from £2.6bn to £12.9bn while forecasts for revenues by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility show Scotland would face a £4bn black hole in its budget by 2016/17.

"This black hole is equal to a third of Scotland's health spending or half Scotland's education spending," noted the Treasury.

The UK Government has committed an estimated £20bn for decommissioning in the North Sea - £314 per head across the UK. "If an independent Scotland wanted to provide the same level of certainty, it would require almost £3800 - £3765 - per head," claimed the Treasury.

In April 2012, Scottish Energy Secretary Fergus Ewing said as the UK had benefited from £170bn extracted from the North Sea, it had "a moral and certainly a legal obligation to be responsible for decommissioning".

In July, Alex Salmond said an independent Scotland would take on the £20bn pledge on tax breaks for oil comp anies made by the UK Government.

A report, unveiled by the First Minister, said: "To provide long-term certainty for the industry, the Scottish Government will assume responsibility for meeting all existing and future obligations stemming from the tax relief associated with decommissioning facilities in Scottish waters. It will guarantee to underwrite these costs."

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