Nicholas Macpherson: Former Treasury boss to join Scottish economic recovery meeting


Former senior Treasury official Sir Nicholas Macpherson will today be among the experts attending the first meeting of the Scottish Government’s new Council of Economic Advisers.

Macpherson’s appointment to the corps met with opposition from some members of the Yes movement when it was announced earlier this month.

He was the longest-serving Mandarin in George Osborne’s department before the 2014 referendum, when the then Chancellor opposed sharing the pound with an independent Scotland.

The official was criticized by SNP and Yes activists for issuing his advice to Treasury ministers warning of a monetary union with Scotland in February 2014.

This criticism was then backed up by an all-party committee of MPs examining the role of the civil service in the referendum campaign for Scottish independence.

The select committee on public affairs said the Treasury Mandarin had risked the civil service’s reputation for impartiality.

READ MORE: Here’s who’s on the Scottish Government’s new Economic Council

Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney said Macpherson had “crossed the line” of civil service neutrality.

Many believe that the position he and the Treasury took significantly weakened the Yes campaign and helped lead to a No vote.

But after the EU referendum in 2016, Macpherson took a more open approach to independence.

In an extraordinary Financial Times column in July 2016, Macpherson said the UK’s decision to leave Europe “changes the terms of the debate north of the border” and that Scotland could “develop further as a as a financial center â€.

He wrote: “With the UK’s exit from the EU, Scottish independence supporters have a golden opportunity to reassess their business prospectus.

“It is clear that EU membership will be at the heart of it. This will allow Scotland to gain access to the world’s largest market without the uncertainties that the rest of the UK is likely to face for many years to come.

“It would also provide a historic opportunity for Edinburgh to further develop as a financial center, as London-based institutions hedge their bets on the location of staff and operations.

Macpherson added: “An independent Scotland committed to the EU would have a tremendous opportunity to attract foreign investment as well as highly skilled migrants.

“If he can develop a clear and coherent economic strategy ahead of any future referendum, not only will he have a better chance of winning, but it will also increase the likelihood that an independent Scotland within the EU can get started.

On currency, he says there should be a Scottish pound backed by a central bank, rather than an attempt at monetary union with the rest of the UK.

He said that despite resistance from Spain concerned about Catalonia, the EU would have a “huge interest in speeding up” Scotland’s accession.

Ahead of the first meeting of the new Economic Advisory Board, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes invited business owners to come up with ideas on how to shape a 10-year economic strategy.


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