The prospect of a second independence referendum has been branded “reckless” after new figures revealed that more than half a million Scottish jobs rely on the country’s economic links with the UK.
The move came as Nicola Sturgeon again confirmed she wants an independent Scotland to join the EU – which is far less important to the country’s economic well-being, a report by the Fraser of Allander Institute indicated yesterday.
The figures were seized on as evidence of the benefits of the Union as campaigning swung into top gear ahead of the 8 June election.
The First Minister insisted that a strong SNP victory is needed to protect Scots from the impact of a Conservative government poised to seize a bigger majority at Westminster, as she dismissed Labour hopes of victory as “pie in the sky”.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the economic data showed the importance of safeguarding Scotland’s place in the UK.
It revealed that about one in four (24 per cent) of Scottish jobs rely on the country’s trade with the rest of the UK, while the comparable figure for the EU is 5.7 per cent.
We have seen recent worrying figures showing the Scottish economy contracting, compared to the UK economy growing overallDavid Mundell
Mr Mundell said: “These figures demonstrate clearly the value of the UK market to Scottish businesses – which is worth four times that of the EU market.
“As we leave the EU, it is vital we maintain the integrity of the UK market and prevent any new barriers to doing business across the UK.
“We have seen recent worrying figures showing the Scottish economy contracting, compared to the UK economy growing overall.
“So, at this time, it is more important than ever that Scotland’s two governments work together for the benefit of people in Scotland. That is what people in Scotland expect, and to what I am committed.”
The most recent economic figures showed that Scotland’s economy shrank in the final quarter of last year, while the rest of the UK is enjoying healthy growth. A similar contraction in the next quarter will mean that the country is formally in recession.
Employment levels are also significantly lower in Scotland than elsewhere and although unemployment is down, it has been accompanied by a spike in the number of Scots who are “economically inactive” and appear to have withdrawn from seeking work.
The latest information is based on the Scottish Government’s export figures, released earlier this year, which show that Scotland sells goods and services worth £49.8 billion to the rest of the UK, and £12.3bn to the EU.
The new analysis by the Strathclyde University-based institute shows that about 530,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by demand for Scottish goods and services from the rest of the UK.
Around two-thirds of Scottish jobs – more than 328,000 in total – are supported by exports to the rest of the UK are in the services sector. Just under one-third (more than 150,000) are in manufacturing and construction.
More than 175,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by export demand from the rest of the world and around 125,000 jobs in Scotland by export demand from the rest of the EU.
Scottish Government Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “These findings ignore the fact that trade is two-way.
“Our own analysis shows exports to Scotland from the rest of the UK support over half a million jobs in the UK.
“Analysis also shows Scotland is the rest of the UK’s second largest export market, behind only the US, with exports worth over £50bn.
“It is quite simply nonsense to suggest that the rest of the UK would cease trading with Scottish firms if we were inside the single market but outside the UK.
“As we have consistently made clear, Scotland does not face a choice between exporting to the EU or the UK – we can, and should, do both.
“This is why we will continue to pursue a way forward which retains our place in Europe’s single market which is vital to protect economic stability, jobs and inward investment.”
Ms Sturgeon said the importance of the EU single market to Scotland’s economy was at the heart of her case for protecting Scotland’s relations with the EU after Brexit and even seeking a second referendum.
Scotland could lose between 30,000 and 80,000 jobs as a result of Brexit, according to a separate analysis published by the Fraser of Allander Institute last year.
Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “Hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on the fact there are no trade barriers between Scotland and the rest of Britain.
“Yet the SNP wants to destroy this arrangement with its reckless gamble, making life harder for businesses and workers.
“The Scottish Government cannot afford to ignore stark evidence like this however inconvenient it is for its separation drive.”