Scotland demands fair share as battle for UK's riches heats up

Scotland has rebutted claims from the UK that a vote for independence will be punitively expensive, stressing the economy's strength and demanding its fair share of assets in the event of a break-up of the union.

Scotland is calling for its share of £1.3 trillion pounds of UK assets to help support an independent Scottish economy, which finance minister John Swinney said is already one of the richest in the world.

"Everyone in Scotland has contributed to this 1.3 trillion-pound stockpile of UK assets and Scotland is entitled to a fair share, giving us an even stronger base to build on," he said.

The assets include buildings and property, but also payments due to the UK government and a share of UK government investments, he added.

"In the case of physical assets overseas or defence assets that cannot be transferred or shared with Scotland, then the result will be for Scotland to receive a cash share of their value or to see our share of UK debts reduced," he added.

Scotland votes on Sept. 18th over whether or not to become independent, and both sides of the debate are seeking to reassure voters of their economic credibility.

The minister was speaking ahead of a detailed breakdown of the Westminster government's estimates of the costs of Scottish independence and Scotland's budget deficit due on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the UK finance ministry said Scotland had not fully budgeted for setting up a new administration that could cost Scottish taxpayers over 1.5 billion pounds.

"Scotland has benefitted from all the UK's assets for many years and will continue to do so if it remains part of the UK," said a spokesman for the UK government's Scotland Office, adding that negotiations over a post-independence settlment could only take place after the vote.

Swinney said that high Scottish national debt, a source of concern for those sceptical about Scottish independence, could be reduced by offsetting it against assets.

The Scottish government estimates that by offsetting 10 billion pounds of assets in this way, the independent nation could save 400 million pounds on paying off UK debt every year.

Scottish leader Alex Salmond, who also runs the ruling Scottish National Party, said that Scotland would be becoming independent "in more promising circumstances than virtually any nation in history," if it votes for secession.

The British government said Scotland's current prosperity was not relevant to the question of how an independent Scotland would fare.

"Yet again the Scottish government is answering the wrong question," UK Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said.

"They are living in the past, basing their analysis on Scotland as part of the UK. All this shows is that we are better off together as part of the UK." 

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