Salmond attacked over independence 'fiscal black hole'

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Alex Salmond has insisted the recent report on and independent Scotland by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed Scotland in a "stronger fiscal position" than the rest of the UK, during first minister's questions on 21 November 2013.

However, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the IFS claimed an independent Scotland would have to increase income tax by 8p or VAT to 27% and asked how the SNP would fill that "fiscal black hole".

In its report, the think tank said the fiscal gap would be 1.9% of national income, compared to 0.8% for the UK due to falling oil revenues and an ageing population.

It said an independent Scotland would need to cut spending or increase taxes for its finances to be sustainable in the long term.

Ms Lamont said: "Explain this to us, why is it that the fiscal black hole the IFS exposed actually doesn't exist and there is nothing to worry about at all?"

The first minister said the IFS report showed "Scotland more than pays its way in the UK".

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson wondered if Alex Salmond thought the fact the IFS had come to its conclusion that taxes would have to rise or spending be cut was a "vast right wing conspiracy or have they the just done the sums?"

Ms Davidson asked: "Why should voters close their eyes, cross their fingers and take a punt on the first minister's far-fetched claims?"

Mr Salmond told MSPs that the IFS made clear that a different path could be taken with independence.

"We'd grow the economy, we'd grow the tax base of the country by growing the economy."

"I agree that if we stay with the United Kingdom, if we allow the Home Office to fling out talented people who want to work in this country, if we deny young Scots the opportunity to work in their own country, then I've no doubt the future is dismal for Scotland."

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the creation of Police Scotland had been a "grand mess" and not a "once in a generation opportunity" as Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had previously said.

The first minister said creation of Police Scotland, record number of police officers on the streets and a 39 year low in recorded crime would be viewed by most people as substantial achievements.

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