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Scotland Office hits back in row over public spending

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Scotland Office hits back in row over public spending

The Scotland Office has hit back in an increasingly heated row over public spending in Scotland, with minister Douglas Ross accusing Constitution Secretary Michael Russell of using social media to make statements that have “significant potential to mislead the public”.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland used a letter to the Scottish Government, released to the media, to call on Russell to provide evidence for his claims, after the SNP MSP disputed a UK Government video stating that “Scotland benefits from an extra £1,968 per person per year because of the UK”, which it said “added up to an extra £10bn a year for Scotland’s public services”.

Responding to the video on Twitter, Russell said: “Actually this isn’t true. Scotland pays out more than it gets back. Time to stop the fibs, Boris, and face reality – the reason you won’t let us choose our own future is because you are scared of what it would cost you.”

In his letter, Ross says the figures from the video come from Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures for 2018-19, “to show that the overall prosperity of the UK allows there to be greater funding for Scotland's public services”.

It says: “I am certain you will agree that politicians have a responsibility to avoid putting unsupported assertions into the public debate around Scotland’s future.

“I believe your statement has significant potential to mislead the public. So I ask, will you release the precise source of your public claim, one which contradicts the evidence of the Scottish Government’s own statisticians?”

But a spokesperson for Russell then responded, accusing the Scotland Office of “desperately trying to portray us as an economic basket case”.

They told the Herald: “Doug Ross is the under-Secretary of State for Scotland – and most people would probably expect that taxpayer-funded role to involve promoting Scotland as a place to invest and do business, rather than desperately trying to portray us as an economic basket case.

“GERS simply gives an illustration of Scotland’s finances under the constitutional status quo – a status quo which will see damage to our economy and living standards caused by the Tory Brexit - and takes no account of the opportunities offered with independence.

“Most countries don’t even have a fraction of Scotland’s immense natural and human resources - yet somehow the Tories argue that we are uniquely incapable of governing ourselves.

“This is the Scottish cringe on steroids.”

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