New doubt cast over Alex Salmond’s claims of Scottish wealth
Study of firms owned abroad raises questions over SNPs figures on independent economy.
Alex Salmonds claim that Scotland is one of the richest countries in the developed world has beenchallenged in a study by Glasgow University academics which finds it is a middle-ranking economy with high levels of foreign ownership.
The domination of non-Scottish firms, particularly in key industries such as North Sea oil, financial services and banking, whisky and salmon, means a significant amount of Scotland’s wealth is exported to the rest of the UK and overseas.
According to the study, the level of outside ownership means that Scotland’s actual income is as much as $5,000 (£2,990) less per head than Salmond suggests. The study uses a measure for national income that puts Scotland at 20th among the 34 countries in the OECD group of developed nations, behind Ireland, Denmark and Japan. Salmond’s argument that Scotland’s gross domestic product (GDP) places the country 14th in the OECD has been a crucial plank in the case for independence.
A separate Guardian investigation has found that key industries are dominated by foreign and London-based firms:
• Nearly all Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas production is licensed to foreign firms. Only one privately owned Scottish firm, First Oil, can be identified as holding licences. It produces just 6,000 of the total 1m barrels of crude produced every day.
• In the financial and banking sector, Scottish-owned institutions earn only £17bn in UK revenues, compared with £34bn earned by UK and overseas firms based in Scotland.
• Another 90 banks and finance companies operate in Scotland with no Scottish registered office, including global firms such as Barclays, HSBC and Morgan Stanley, whose earnings flow directly to London or overseas.
• More than 70% of Scotland’s total economic output – excluding banking and finance and the public sector – is controlled by non-Scottish-owned firms, according to Scottish government data. The figure for the UK is 36%, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
- The Guardian,