By Chris Rumbles
The SNP’s Westminster Deputy Leader is to address a number of myths surrounding the Scottish economy in a debate held tonight in London.
Stewart Hosie, Member of Parliament for Dundee East, will elaborate on what the SNP have proposed for an independent Scotland at the event organised by polling company IPSOS/Mori and Kings College.
Key to Mr Hosie’s speech will be correcting a number of fallacies on the state of the Scottish economy that have been perpetuated by political rhetoric characterising Scotland as a ‘something for nothing society’ dependent on public sector jobs and welfare.
In his speech Mr Hosie’s will say: “The Scottish economy employs over 2.5 million people and the private sector employs over 77% of these people. So myth number one – that Scotland is overly dependent on public sector employment – is not true.
“There is a second myth – which is that of Scotland’s ‘welfare dependency’. But in the past year Scotland spent just over 14% of GDP on Social Protection – pensions and benefits – while the UK spent more, almost 16% of GDP. So that’s not true either.”
As the SNP’s spokesman on Treasury matters, Hosie will also challenge false assumptions on the subject of tax revenue:
“The biggest myth – is the subsidy myth. The reality is that tax revenue from Scotland last year was £1,700 per head higher than the UK average. And on average £1,350 a year higher than the UK for over 30 years,” Hosie will add.
A study of official figures carried out by the Financial Times in February found that a ‘Yes’ vote in September would leave Scotland richer than the rest of the United Kingdom and in the top 20 nations in terms of GDP per head, ahead of both the UK and France.
The article, written by Mure Dickie and Keith Fray, points out that independence would see the rest of the UK lose 8.3 per cent of its population but 9.2 per cent of its gross domestic product.
Analysis carried out this weekend by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s showed that an independent Scotland would have a strong economy comparable to triple-A rated Germany and would, even without North Sea oil, qualify for the agency’s “highest economic assessment”.
Though Mr Hosie’s speech will seek to dispel myths on economic issues, it will also aim to expand upon the finer details of what will occur in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote come September 18.
He will tell the audience: “The Scottish Government’s intention is that a constitutional platform will be put in place for Scotland becoming independent in March 2016, immediately prior to the 2016 election campaign.
“That will ensure that the new Parliament and Government elected in May 2016 have the full range of powers needed to get on with the work of building a better and more socially just Scotland. The essential features of that platform – principally the completion of the powers of the Scottish Parliament-will be carried out in the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement.”
The SNP MP will also use the speech to counter claims that an independent Scotland would suffer from businesses moving operations elsewhere by arguing that initiatives such as cutting corporation tax, transforming child care and cutting then abolishing Air Passenger Duty (APD) would improve the Scottish economy.
Scottish government proposals to reduce then eventually abolish APD in an independent Scotland have been welcomed by airline CEOs Willie Walsh and Michael O’Leary.
Walsh, CEO of the International Airlines Group who own British Airways, last week disagreed that Scottish independence would be bad for business: “If anything, it might be marginally positive because I suspect the Scottish government will abolish air passenger duty, because they recognise the huge impact that that tax has on their economy.”
Ryanair CEO O’Leary supported Walsh’s argument when he said: “There’s no doubt that most airlines would support the position of the Scottish government in relation to the abolition of the APD which does untold damage to Scottish tourism.”
The speech to be given by Stewart Hosie will stress that negotiations in a post-‘Yes’ scenario between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster would be conducted in a constructive fashion with the “best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom” at heart.
Debates in both the Scottish Parliament and the media on the independence referendum so far have often been criticised for their excessive hostility by political commentators and the public alike.
An IPSOS MORI survey produced for the Law Society of Scotland in January asked people ‘Would you agree or disagree that the debate so far has been too aggressive?’ with 30 per cent of respondents selecting ‘Strongly agree’ and 24 per cent choosing ‘Tend to agree’.
A separate question in the same survey asked ‘Would you agree or disagree that the debate so far has been interesting for people like me?’ with a total of 53 per cent of people saying they would ‘strongly’ or ‘tend’ to agree.
Also speaking at the London debate are Labour MP Jim Murphy, King’s College Politics lecturer Dr Andrew Blick, IPSOS MORI Scotland Research Director Mark Diffley, Daily Telegraph columnist Sue Cameron and BBC broadcaster James Naughtie.