Scotland’s economy grows but business demands action

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BUSINESS leaders yesterday called for a “far greater” focus on private sector growth as figures showed the Scottish economy continuing to expand.

News that gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.5 per cent during the final three months of 2012 comes just a week before an initial first-quarter reading for the UK as a whole. Opinion is divided as to whether that will show Britain entering its third recession in less than five years.

Scotland’s Q4 growth, which compares to a 0.3 per cent UK-wide contraction in the same period, was partly due to a large increase in electricity and gas supply, including strong renewable energy output between October and December.

Business groups welcomed the news, but pointed out that growth remained below trend and called for additional support for struggling companies. CBI Scotland’s assistant director, David Lonsdale, said: “After a difficult start to the year it is encouraging that the Scottish economy ended 2012 on an encouraging note.

“Nothing however can be taken for granted, underlining the need for continued action to aid businesses to take full advantage of the recovery.

“If we want to see a more vigorous recovery and a more sustainable economic model in future then Scotland has to become less reliant on public spending, with a far greater emphasis on private sector growth.”

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The problem of below trend growth in Scotland and how to support businesses to achieve a competitive advantage in the global marketplace is one of the central challenges to politicians in the ongoing debate over Scotland’s constitutional future.”

The GDP figures were published at the same time as the latest Scottish employment data, which showed the jobless total falling below 200,000 for the first time since 2009.

Finance secretary John Swinney said: “It is very welcome to see these positive trends in employment and in economic growth for Scotland.”