LEAVING the United Kingdom would inflict eight times more damage on the Scottish economy than a hard Brexit, a pro-Union business group claims in a report today.

Scottish Business UK said independence could cost more than 14 per cent of Scotland’s GDP in terms of damage to trade, the loss of cross-border subsidies and currency costs.

The Tory-dominated cross-party group said this was compared to 1.8% of GDP in a worst case Brexit that forced the UK to rely on WTO rules.

The SNP said the ‘Win Win’ report on the benefits of the UK, released to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the No vote in 2014 referendum, was “ludicrously over the top”.

Scottish Business UK was set up last year as a vehicle for pro-Union businesses in the event of a second independence referendum.

Its founder and chairman is millionaire Tory donor Robert Kilgour and its chief executive is former Scottish Tory MEP Struan Stevenson.

Mr Kilgour said the question mark over another independence vote was deterring business investment in Scotland and hurting the economy.

He said: “Our report shows that a second referendum on independence for Scotland will be eight times more damaging than a worse case Brexit scenario to the Scottish economy, and that is a reality that no-one operating in businesses across Scotland could afford to come to fruition.”

Mr Stevenson added: “We are four years from the last referendum on independence for Scotland which was not supported, yet the spectre of a further referendum remains ever present.

"We’re calling on the Scottish Government to abandon the demand for another referendum and focus more on reigniting the Scottish economy, so we once again become a credible investment opportunity, on a par with other parts of the UK.”

Labour Jackie Baillie MSP said: “This is yet more evidence of how damaging independence would be to our economy.

"As the SNP itself admitted in its cuts commission, independence would mean decades of austerity, tax rises and massive reductions in public spending.

"That is not what the people of Scotland need or want.

"Nicola Sturgeon needs to stop putting nationalism before the NHS, schools and jobs."

An SNP spokesperson said: “These claims are so ludicrously over the top they show just how rattled the Tories are - they know support for independence has never been so consistently high or sustained, and that Brexit may well be the point of no return.

?"Leaving the EU and a single market eight times bigger than the UK's alone threatens to be disastrous for Scotland - and the shambolic no-deal outcome the Tories are now preparing for would be utterly catastrophic.

?"Scotland is already one of the most productive parts of the UK outside London, with resources few countries can match, and independence would allow us to make the most of that huge potential."