SCOTLAND’S economy will continue to flatline unless there is a policy shift by Chancellor George Osborne which stimulates growth, particularly in the construction sector.
At a macro level, the latest albeit marginal decline in Scotland’s economic output compares favourably with a more substantial UK decline of 0.4 per cent.
However, the most important number is a sharp decline of 6.9 per cent in Scottish construction-sector output. It is that industry’s short-term recovery which holds the key to wider economic confidence in every sector of the economy including my own.
I welcome the Scottish Government’s policy since 2008 to bring forward substantial infrastructure investment and the new list of shovel-ready projects it advocates.
I also recognise the constraints in which First Minister Alex Salmond and his colleagues are operating. They are making substantial efforts to set an economic direction tailored to the distinct economic characteristics of Scotland. However, they are constrained in their ability to influence events by two major factors. First, the lack of economic powers at their disposal. Secondly, by a UK government policy which fails to recognise the importance of the construction industry and real upfront public investment.
Moreover, sustained economic growth is pivotal to re-establishing market confidence in Britain’s medium-term economic prospects.
The significance of these constraints for the future of our domestic industry and the associated jobs suggests to me that we require the levers of full economic control.
I have argued that full fiscal autonomy should be offered to Scots in a referendum. However, no such option is gaining enough support to be realised in time to make the difference we all want to see for this and future generations.
It appears that only independence as defined by the Scottish Government, an independent nation within this social union and common market of the UK, will allow England and Scotland to pursue distinct economic policies in the face of different demands and competitive pressures.
• Jim McColl OBE is chief executive of Clyde Blowers.