English taxpayers would have to make a cash payment to an independent Scotland to secure ownership of public assets like schools and hospitals, Scotland’s nationalist-led government has declared.
The claim emerged in a parliamentary submission from the Scottish government last week, which asserted that an independent Scotland would own a share of public buildings and assets in England. It said that Scottish taxpayers had helped fund those assets, so Scotland would have a formal legal claim on them.
According to the Scottish National Party-led administration in Edinburgh, this legal claim could only be ended with a cash payment to the newly independent nation. The claim sparked warnings that Scottish independence would leave English taxpayers paying for their own public services.
Scots will vote on independence in September, and while polls say a majority plan to vote No, politicians on all sides believe that opinion could yet swing in favour of independence. A Yes vote would begin a lengthy and complex negotiation over Scotland’s separation from the rest of the UK.
In those talks, the SNP would seek to lay claim to a share of public assets outside Scotland.
“Assets located elsewhere in the UK will also have to be included in negotiations, as Scotland has contributed to their value over a long period of time. For physical assets like these, the equitable outcome may be to provide Scotland with an appropriate cash share of their value,” the Scottish Government submission said in evidence submitted to a parliamentary inquiry into this issue of independence this week. “UK public services are assets belonging to both Scotland and the rest of the UK. This is because tax payers in both Scotland and the rest of the UK have paid to build and maintain these services.”
The prospect of English, Welsh and Northern Irish residents having to make payments to an independent Scotland has fuelled the debate about how other parts of the UK are represented in the constitutional debate.
Only residents of Scotland can vote in the referendum, though some English voices have asked why people elsewhere in the UK do not have a say on a decision that will affect the entire country. David Cameron last month said he was “sad” that as an Englishman, he will not have a vote in the referendum.
The Campaign for an English Parliament said the Scottish claim showed that English voters need clearer political representation of their own in any talks about the future of the UK.
Eddie Bone, the campaign’s director, said: “The people of England need to know that the SNP want to keep all the UK assets in Scotland and then they want a share of assets, including the physical assets, located elsewhere in the UK. They are asking for an appropriate cash share of their value. “I have never seen a clearer example of why the people of England need a First Minister and their own parliament. If the English are not given their own political voice soon so they can protect their assets then they will be forced to take over the UK debt.”
He added: “If the Scots voted Yes and this happened, English taxpayers would be asked to write a cheque to Scotland for the schools and hospitals that they already use. “People in England should be aware: if you don’t have a voice, this sort of thing can happen.”