By Martin Kelly
An independent Scotland would take full advantage of its vast resources and talent to maximise its potential and deliver a more prosperous country and a fairer society, First Minister Alex Salmond said today.
The First Minister said the Westminster system has created one of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the developed world, an unbalanced economy which has focussed on London and the South-East of England, neglected manufacturing and created large trade deficits.
In ‘Economic policy choices in an independent Scotland’ Mr Salmond set out key policy areas which will transfer to an independent Scotland to build greater long-term economic security, growth and job opportunities.
Amongst initiatives included were plans to get more women into the workplace by reducing childcare costs and attracting more talent into the Scottish economy with a view to persuading them to stay.
Key policy areas included:
- Establishing an industrial strategy which rebalances the economy and diversifies Scotland’s industrial base – promoting manufacturing, innovation and boosting productivity. An increase of just one per cent in Scotland’s productivity performance has the potential to boost employment by around 21,000 over the long-term.
- Promoting participation in the labour market by delivering more efficient employability, welfare and skills programmes and transforming child care. An increase in Scotland’s economic activity rate of one percentage point would be equivalent to an extra 30,000 plus people in the labour market.
- Targeting measures to reduce outflow of labour and attract skilled workers to enhance Scotland’s population growth and build on the current projections of nine per cent growth over the 25 year period of 2012 to 2037.
- Using tax incentives to support growth in key sectors (e.g. tourism & creative industry) and target areas – such as international connectivity – through initiatives such as reforming Air Passenger Duty.
- Using carefully targeted tax measures, such as a reduction in corporation tax, to counterbalance the pull of London and the South East an initiative that is forecast to create approximately 27,000 jobs.
- Boosting the internationalisation and brand recognition of the Scottish economy including reforming the structures that support trade, integrating business and industrial strategies, with trade, foreign policy and international engagement. A 50 per cent increase in the value of Scottish exports could boost output by around £5 billion and create over 100,000 jobs in the long-term.
The launch of the policy document follows a report published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies that claimed an independent Scotland would be worse off without the support of the rest of the UK.
Today’s report challenges the key conclusion of the IFS and says the evidence of Scotland’s economic performance as part of the UK shows that it is only with a vote for independence in next year’s referendum that Scotland will be given the opportunity to secure the transformational benefits that can come from bringing together key policy areas with taxation, welfare and public sector investment.
Launching ‘Economic policy choices in an independent Scotland’ at Dundee University’s College of Life Sciences, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“Scotland can more than afford to be a successful independent country, with a thriving economy and opportunities for everyone. We have vast natural resources and huge human talent – but those advantages held been stifled by having our economic policy run by Westminster.
“The one size fits all economic policies of successive Westminster Governments have failed and are continuing to fail the people of Scotland. We perform well at the moment but we should be doing so much better. A simple glance at many other European countries of similar size to Scotland, some without the natural advantages Scotland has, shows that we have lagged behind their growth rates for decades.
“Independence will give us with the chance to build an economy that takes advantage of Scotland’s unique strengths and size to deliver a more outward focussed, fairer and resilient economy, boosting revenues and creating many thousands of more jobs.
“This paper sets out just some of the options and opportunities available in an independent Scotland. It outlines the opportunities that will allow us to rebalance our economy, to support re-industrialisation through innovation, diversification and the promotion of exports and to rebalance the economy.
“Increasing the level of participation in our economy by securing new and long-term job opportunities and boosting productivity by improving the business environment will help ensure that the benefits of economic growth are felt by all parts of our country.
“That will make Scotland a fairer country, in contrast to the economic policies of Westminster which have resulted in the UK becoming one of the most unequal societies in the developed world – a trend that is only likely to get worse under Westminster rule.
“As this report makes clear, rebalancing the economy, boosting economic performance and tackling the long-standing inequalities in society created by Westminster will take time, but it can only be done with the powers of independence.
“Only with independence will we be able to maximise our huge potential and deliver the type of economy and society that reflects the values of the people of Scotland.”
Labour MP Alistair Darling, who heads the Better Together anti-independence Better Together campaign, said it was a “fantasy” to suggest that Scotland would be able to flourish with independence.
He said: “Yesterday the independent and impartial Institute of Fiscal Studies reminded the people of Scotland what John Swinney has been privately telling his cabinet colleagues for months.
“If we were to leave the UK we would face the prospect of big tax rises, damaging cuts to public services – or a combination of the two.
“Today, the Nationalists have chosen to ignore reality and to offer up a type of fantasy economics that beggars belief.
“Instead of admitting the obvious challenges caused by the rise in the number of elderly people, the fall in the number of people of working age and the eventual decline in North Sea oil, the Nationalists have reverted to type.
“Their response is to deny that there are any problems and to say, yet again, that the experts are wrong.”