Scotland's Independence May Endanger Scots on British Welfare

Image: Scotland's Independence May Endanger Scots on British Welfare A lone piper plays in a street in Edinburgh, as Scotland gets ready for the upcoming vote on Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 08:50 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Scotland's independence could endanger vulnerable social groups within the country that are dependent on Britain's welfare system, according to a British government study released Thursday.

The warning comes just months before Scotland's September 18 independence referendum, in which the nation's 5 million residents will have a chance to separate themselves from Britain with a single vote, bringing an end to a 300-year-old union with the United Kingdom.

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Supporters of the independence movement have accused London and its Scottish supporters of running a scare campaign on the currency, European Union membership and public finances to frighten Scots into remaining a part of the United Kingdom, Reuters reported.

According to the British report, if Scotland were to gain its independence, it would face rising welfare costs associated with an aging population that would amount to an extra 1.55 billion pounds per year over the next 20 years. The report added that between 2012 and 2013, welfare spending per head in Scotland was 2 percent higher than the national UK average.

"Proposals by the Scottish government would risk the wellbeing of vulnerable people who are currently supported by this system," British Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Thursday regarding the study.

"On top of the ageing population - which is increasing faster in Scotland than the rest of the UK - the Scottish government are committing to spending even more on wider welfare without saying how they'll pay for it," Smith added.

At the moment, Scottish polls show that while there is still more support to remain a part of the United Kingdom that lead has been significantly reduced in recent months as an increasing number of Scots are throwing their support behind the independence movement.

One famous Scot is Sean Connery, who in March joined the chorus of those promoting independence for the Highland nation.

"As a Scot and as someone with a lifelong love for both Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss," Connery wrote in an article published in the New Statesman.

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"Having researched the numbers, it is clear that there are huge economic benefits to be gained as well as cultural ones," Connery continued. "Scotland’s creative industries generated £2.8bn for the country’s economy in 2011. The historic environment brought in over £2bn, supporting 60,000 jobs. These are impressive numbers. With independence, they can be more impressive still."

The opposing view was expressed by another Scot, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who on Tuesday warned that a pension "time bomb" awaited Scotland if it were to break away from the United Kingdom.

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