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Poll of experts says independent Scotland would not be richer

AN OVERWHELMING majority of top economic experts, polled in a survey published today, believe Scotland would not be better off as an independent nation.

And the snapshot by the Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM) also showed a majority - 53 per cent to 41 per cent - agreed with George Osborne that, in the event of a Yes vote in September's referendum, the rest of the UK would be better off not joining a currency union with Scotland. The Chancellor has, consequently, ruled one out.

The London-based CFM describes itself as a research centre that brings together world-class economic experts from leading organisations like the London School of Economics, Cambridge University, the Bank of England, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

It claimed its survey, which questioned just 46 experts, was the first to ask such independent leading professionals specifically about the implications of Scottish independence.

Of the 28 experts who responded to the question about whether an independent Scotland would be economically better off, three quarters said it would not. Only one expert said it would.

Excluding the six non-committal respondents, "95 per cent of respondents either disagree or strongly disagree that Scotland would be better off in economic terms as an independent country". Most concerns were about the fiscal prospects for an independent Scotland.

Among them, George Buckley from Deutsche Bank said an independent Scotland would be exposed to weaker tax revenues from depleting oil resources and a worse demographic profile than the rest of the UK while David Cobham, of Heriot-Watt University, questioned whether pulling apart the members of well-integrated nations made sense.

On a second question about whether they agreed with the Chancellor's contention that the rest of the UK would be worse off in a currency union with an independent Scotland, the experts were more evenly split.

Of the 34 who answered this question, 53 per cent agreed that ruling out a monetary union would be in the best economic interests of the continuing UK while 41 per cent disagreed.

Martin Ellison, from Oxford University, said the recent euro crisis showed how challenging a monetary union was without a fiscal, political and banking union. Andrew Mountford, from Royal Holloway college, felt it should be possible to agree a monetary union while Sir Christopher Pissarides, from the LSE, and John Driffill, from Birkbeck College, agreed with Alex Salmond's contention that the UK's stance was purely motivated to influence the referendum.

Labour's Ian Murray, the Shadow Business Minister, on behalf of Better Together, said: "This is yet another significant intervention from economic experts highlighting exactly why we are better and stronger together in Scotland as part of the UK."

But Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, Chief Executive of Business for Scotland, said: "Scotland will be better off with the powers of an independent country; independence is the business opportunity of a lifetime... . Staying with the UK, however, will slow our growth and allow inequality to worsen as the policies that make London wealthier are the self-same policies that hold Scotland back."

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