Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond is not being straight with the Scottish people on the costs of independence according to the Scottish Affairs Committee (Reuters)

There is a need for honesty in the white paper the Scottish government will publish at the end of November 2013 outlining the future of an independent Scotland, according to critics at the Scottish Affairs Committee.

The committee has published a report called The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: The Need for Truth.

The report claims the Scottish National Party (SNP), which won a landslide victory in the 2011 Scottish government elections, has not been honest with Scottish voters on a number of critical economic issues relating to independence.

"The Scottish government has already shown great willingness to misrepresent or disregard the many inconvenient truths that do not support the case for separation. Of course a case can be made for separation, and its proponents must be allowed to make that case as well as they can, but they must not simply promote a party view with public money in a government document," said MP Ian Davidson, chair of the committee.

The committee was concerned that the Scottish government had left much unanswered concerning Scottish pensions, public spending, European Union membership and currency in debates about the pros and cons of an independent Scotland.

It was also worried that these issues would not be addressed or resolved by the Scottish government's White Paper on independence.

"On all the big important issues such as pensions, benefits, public services, and tax collection, the White Paper must be properly costed and show what a separate Scotland would realistically be able to afford, and the choices it would have to make, rather than simply claiming that oil pays for everything. If it fails to deliver this the paper's credibility will be open to serious challenge. We intend to subject any statistics provided to vigorous, impartial analysis, calling on external bodies where necessary," continued Davidson.

"This White Paper must be a full and frank exposition of all these issues - otherwise it will be rightly subject to criticism and able to be dismissed as simply party political propaganda," he added.

Scotland and Currencies

The report said that the question of currency in Scotland is the most important economic question for an independent Scotland.

The White Paper had not clarified whether Scotland would stay in a currency union with the rest of the UK, join the euro or establish its own currency and central bank.

"We believe it is incumbent on the Scottish government to state with the greatest possible clarity in the White Paper what its intentions are with regard to the currency to be used in an independent Scotland. No economic question is more important for a new country. Of course the Scottish government is entitled to repeat that it aspires to have a monetary union with the rest of the UK. If so, we believe it must say what conditions it would be prepared to accept in order to secure such a union.

"We also believe it must set out clearly for the Scottish people what the alternatives are (whether unilateral use of sterling, the adoption of the euro, or the creation of a new separate Scottish currency), and which of these options it would prefer, and to set out openly and honestly the implications of each approach. If the White Paper fails to do this, it will rightly be subject to criticism as having no coherent economic plan for a separate Scotland," stated the report.

Scotland and the EU

The affairs committee also highlighted the Scottish government's misleading approach concerning EU membership.

"The committee believes the record shows that the Scottish government has misled MSPs, and voters, on the topic of EU membership.

"For a prolonged period many people were misled into believing that the Scottish Government had legal advice from the Scottish Law Officers which indicated that EU membership for a separate Scotland would be 'automatic'. The Scottish Government was happy to allow this impression to remain.

"At the very least, the committee believes the White Paper must set out the issues which the Scottish Government expects to be dealt with in any EU Membership negotiations, what objectives it would hope to achieve," the report said.

Pensions in Scotland

The report also said that the Scottish government had not been honest about Scotland's growing demographic of elderly people and how this would affect the funding of public pensions.

"Recent comment from the chair of the National Statistics Authority shows that the Scottish government has made a misleading use of data on pensions, to give the impression that pensions will be easily affordable in a separate Scotland.

"We believe it is grossly irresponsible to supply voters with a false prospectus in this way. Unless the Scottish Government's White Paper openly and honestly acknowledges the long-term demographic realities, and sets out the plans for dealing with them, it will not command any respect."