By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has called on ordinary LibDems to ‘revolt’ against their party leaders in order to force the UK coalition to ditch its economic plans and instead adopt a similar approach to that being pursued in Scotland.
In a statement issued on the eve of the Lib Dems’ UK conference, the Scottish National Party stepped up the campaign for the Tory/Lib Dem Westminster coalition to introduce an economic alternative – a ‘Plan MacB’.
The Nationalists claim that ordinary LibDem supporters favour the policies being implemented by the Scottish government and have called on them to exert pressure on their party bosses.
The call echoes remarks made by First Minister Alex Salmond this week in which he argued that the coalition needed to focus more on increasing capital expenditure and improving access to finance for medium and small sized businesses in order to improve consumer confidence.
The Nationalists insist that employment figures published this week, showing Scotland outperforming the rest of the UK, proved that the SNP had got it right and that unless the coalition changed direction then it risked derailing the recovery.
The figures showed that among all the nations and regions of the UK, Scotland is the only place where unemployment fell in the latest quarter, May-July 2011. During this three-month period, those out of work in Scotland fell by 3,000 to 7.5 per cent, compared to a UK-wide increase of 80,000 to 7.9 per cent. Over the year, Scottish unemployment has fallen by 33,000, while UK levels increased by 44,000.
Employment figures for the period followed a similar trend with those in work increasing by 23,000 in Scotland, outperforming the UK where it fell by 69,000. The Scottish employment rate is now 71.6 per cent compared to a UK rate of 70.5 per cent during May-July 2011. Over the year, Scottish employment rose by 36,000 – encompassing the entire 24,000 figure for the aggregate employment increase in the UK as a whole.
SNP MSP Joe Fitzpatrick said:
“The SNP Government is delivering a ‘Plan MacB’, which is cutting unemployment in Scotland while it rises in every other part of the UK, and it is vital that the Tory/Lib Dem coalition at Westminster follows the Scottish lead – otherwise there is a real risk that they will derail our recovery.”
Mr Fitzpatrick claimed that most LibDem delegates agreed with the SNP and highlighted as proof the recent defections of five LibDem councillors to the SNP and the collapse of the party’s vote in Scotland.
Describing the LibDem’s senior Scottish MPs as ‘Tory lairds’ he added:
“There should be a Lib Dem delegate revolt in Birmingham in favour of ‘Plan MacB’ – increased capital expenditure, improved access to finance for medium and small sized businesses, and the introduction of measures to boost consumer confidence and economic security. That is what is working in Scotland, and the UK Government needs to adopt it now.
“At present, we have the ridiculous spectacle of the Lib Dem leadership behaving more like Tory lairds than Highland crofters. Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is the Tories’ head boy in Scotland.
“A key example is the imposition of pension contribution hikes across the public sector, which is entirely wrong at a time of pay freezes, as part of a Tory deficit reduction strategy that is going too far, too fast. Consumer demand is already extremely fragile, and imposing an effective pay cut on top of a pay freeze will damage economic confidence further, and threatens to destroy recovery.
“It is high time that the Lib Dems stopped acting as body armour for the Tories. Tory MPs may welcome industrial strife for partisan political reasons, but no right-thinking Lib Dem would.
“Lib Dem conference delegates should make a stand in Birmingham – and demand economic sanity from the leaders and a ‘Plan MacB’.”