Scotland's economy 'robust enough for independence'

Scotland can afford to go it alone as an independent country, its first minister Alex Salmond insisted on Tuesday as his administration claimed the British government was holding back economic development north of the border.

Launching a paper outlining Scotland's economic strengths ahead of a referendum next year, Salmond argued that independence would unlock its potential as it could decide its own investment priorities.

He said Scotland had generated more tax per head than the rest of the United Kingdom every year for the past 30 years, but its economy was hampered by the British government's insistence on focusing investment in London and southeast England.

Scotland needed to be handed "more of the levers of economic power" before it could reach its full potential, the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said, and only independence could deliver that.

"Scotland has a strong onshore economy and vast offshore potential, as well as a highly educated workforce and world-class technology and research," Salmond said.

"But despite all of these inherent economic strengths, Scotland's long-term economic growth has lagged behind that of comparable European nations, many of which do not have the natural advantages we do.

"The explanation for that rests in the fact that Scotland's economic strength is not yet in Scotland's hands."

Amid the claims and counter-claims of the independence campaign, the British government warned on Monday that Scottish banks were safer within the United Kingdom than outside.

"The scale of the UK economy, relative to the size of our banks, allows the UK to resolve a banking crisis and maintain the financial stability of the whole of the UK," the government argued in its latest analysis of the implications of Scottish independence.

The Royal Bank of Scotland had to be bailed out to the tune of £46 billion (55 billion euros, $70 billion) by the British government in 2008 following the financial collapse.

In his presentation at a bus factory in Falkirk on Tuesday, Salmond dismissed suggestions that Scotland's economy was over-reliant on its oil and gas sector and financial services industry.

He pointed to the food and drink industry, with an annual turnover of more than £12 billion, creative industries, which generate £4.8 billion turnover a year, and life sciences, which employ 30,000 people.

Former British finance minister Alistair Darling, who is spearheading the campaign to keep the United Kingdom together, said the SNP paper was "long on grievances about the past, but it is very short on Scotland's future".

He told the BBC: "In the absence of having any answers to difficult questions, the nationalists have reverted to negative type. It is all Westminster's fault."

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on September 18, 2014.