A Scottish property investment chief has condemned the Yes campaign for “hugely exaggerating” the benefits of North Sea oil.
Taking a robust anti-independence stance, Caledonian Trust chairman Douglas Lowe said the crude oil price collapse meant the expected benefits of the remaining oil in Scottish waters are much lower than any previous estimate.
“If it was Scotland’s oil it has now largely evaporated, burning out like a political will o’ the wisp,” he said.
The SNP’s “quite unrealistically large” estimates of oil revenue accruing to Scotland were based on prices of around $113 a barrel and unsupported levels of extractable oil.
The debate and referendum on September 18 took place before the dramatic fall to $65 early this month.
North Sea oil production has reduced by 62% over the last decade, and he said that at current prices the tax revenue would fall to as low as £1 billion in 2016 a quarter of the estimated figure.
Mr Lowe considered the economic cost of Scottish independence would have been great, with Scotland facing higher interest costs on debt incurred, higher central and administrative costs, and high social costs due to unfavourable demographics and higher long-term unemployment.
“There is no evidence to support Scottish latent higher productivity, entrepreneurship or special skills leading to higher economic output, and no good argument to show how these beneficial traits could have been nurtured in an independent Scotland. Assertion is no an argument,” he said.
The SNP’s commitment to the centralisation of policies and a more redistributive society with higher and more progressive taxation and increased emphasis of the rights of the state and state officialdom over individual rights “is not a textbook prescription for higher growth”.
He believed that the short-term effects of independence would have been unfavourable, with a large-scale move to the UK in the banking and financial sectors and in certain technical sectors.
Investment decisions where the balance between Scotland and the UK was close would mostly have been made in favour of the UK, he believed, and “the downside risk to investment in a Scotland with uncertain currency and trading relationships would be very large”.
In the months prior to the vote, and as the outcome became less clear, property transaction numbers slowed appreciably and some were conditional on a ‘No’ outcome.
“Relocation, diversion of investment and delay would have continued through the period of the settlement and would have caused a recession in Scotland,” he said.
“Post the settlement, Scotland would have grown at a slower pace than the UK from a lower base following the Scotland recession.”
Mr Lowe was commenting on Caledonian Trust’s performance for the year to June 30, in which it turned a pre-tax loss of £62,000 to a profit of £164,000.
Profit per share was 1.39p, compared with a loss of 0.52p the previous year.
Net asset value per share was 147.2p, compared with 145.8p the year before.
The trust has major property development projects in London and Edinburgh.
Caledonian’s development opportunities in Tayside and Fife are at Tomperran, Comrie; Chance Inn, Kinross; Carnbo, Balado; Strathtay; Myreside Farm in the Carse of Gowrie; Camghouran, Loch Rannoch; and Larennie and Frithfield near St Andrews.