One of Nicola Sturgeon’s new hand-picked economic advisors has warned independence would be “Brexit times 10” thanks to the much deeper economic ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Prof Mark Blyth, who was appointed to the First Minister’s new economic advisory council in July, said that “pulling apart” more than three centuries of economic integration would “hurt a lot.”
In an interview given only days before his appointment was announced by the Scottish Government in July, he said adopting a different currency and economic policy from the remainder of the UK would mean “significant short to medium-term costs.”
In particular, he said it would mean erecting trade barriers with the English market, which is the destination for 60 per cent of Scottish exports.
Prof Blyth, a Scots-born academic based in the UK, said optimists would argue “how hard could it be” with a country of only four million people “and we have loads of resources.”
But the independence supporter said the pessimist view of “300 years of deep economic integration – good luck unwinding that” was “simultaneously true” and both views must be taken into account.
His intervention emerged as Ms Sturgeon intensified her attacks on Brexit, arguing it was responsible for a drop in numbers of HGV drivers that have caused shortages of some food supplies.
She is expected to kick-start her independence campaign at the SNP conference, which starts later this week.
SNP members will debate proposals for a new commission it is claimed would show how a border with England could “favourably benefit” an independent Scotland, despite warnings that inevitable trade barriers would prove devastating to businesses.
‘Scotland separated from England is the biggest Brexit in history’
The First Minister repeatedly failed to explain, during the recent Holyrood election campaign, how a separate Scotland in the EU could avoid a hard border with England, admitting that her government had done no analysis of the impact on people’s incomes.
Prof Blyth, who is director of the William R Rhodes Centre for International Economics and Finance at Brown University in Rhode Island, told the Foreign Press Association the possibility of another independence referendum had arisen out of Brexit.
He said: “If your argument is that we need to do this because of Brexit, then Scotland separated from England is the biggest Brexit in history.
“The last time Scotland was fully economically independent, the word capitalism hadn’t been uttered. It [the Union] has been together for over 300 years.
“So, if pulling apart 30 years of economic integration with Europe is going to hurt, 300 years is going to hurt a lot.”
He said Scots could opt for “brass-plate independence” where “nothing really changes” and Scotland keeps the pound. The alternative is regulatory divergence with different currency and economic policy.
“There’s no way around that. We know that because it’s Brexit times 10,” he added.
Prof Blyth also suggested an independent Scotland may need to keep the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent on the Clyde to get into the EU.
A spokesman for the First Minister said: “Scotland has been torn out of the EU against our democratic will, causing massive harm to our economy and society. Brexit is inflicting huge labour shortages, leading to empty shelves in our shops.
“Independence will give us the chance to re-join a market around seven times bigger than the UK, while giving us the powers to build a more prosperous and fairer country, instead of having unwanted policies like Brexit imposed on us by Boris Johnson.”