AN INDEPENDENT Scotland could achieve “full employment” under a blueprint unveiled by John Swinney to get almost 200,000 Scots into work.
Every Scot who is “willing and able” to work should have the opportunity, according to the Jobs Plan for an Independent Scotland published today.
However, SNP opponents accused the finance secretary of “picking jobs figures out of the air” and said the party’s currency proposals would damage Scotland’s economy.
Although full employment is unlikely to mean that everyone is in work, it will mean the jobless rate is driven down from the current level of about 6.9 per cent by about a third.
The plan sets out measures such as cutting corporation tax, boosting international exports and productivity, as well as getting a generation of women back into the workplace to create a jobs boom after a Yes vote.
It sets out proposals to “re-industrialise” the country with a major emphasis on boosting manufacturing and promoting innovation. Scotland must aim “to do better” than simply returning to pre-recession levels, the report states.
“The Scottish Government believes that full employment in an independent Scotland is a realistic goal,” it adds. “The Scottish Government is committed to creating the economic conditions that would increase employment in a way that provides opportunities for all who are willing and able to work.”
The report sets out plans for a “high wage and high productivity” economy competing in international markets.
“Far too many Scots still feel they have to leave each year to get a job or further their career,” Mr Swinney said. “Many people will always want to travel and work elsewhere – but that must be a choice and not a requisite for those looking to succeed.”
A ten-point plan is set out which says 27,000 jobs could be created north of the Border with a 3 per cent cut in the headline corporation tax rate to temp companies away from London.
It envisions improvements in education and training that would see 30,000 people starting on the Modern Apprenticeship programme each year by 2020. A long-term plan to boost international exports by 50 per cent could see the creation of 122,000 jobs, as well as increasing output by about £5.6 billion.
An increase in productivity of 1 per cent could also create 21,000 jobs. This would be achieved through better education and skills, as well as infrastructure investment.
Full-time childcare for youngsters from the age of one is also proposed which could see a generation of women return to work and mean up to 35,000 more Scots in employment. Mr Swinney admitted independence “is not a magic wand”, but said few countries had Scotland’s economic potential.
He said: “With the right policies in place, we could achieve full employment – giving our businesses a competitive edge and incentives to create more and better jobs here in Scotland.
“The gains of independence will only happen if we work hard and use policy wisely. But what is clear is that no-one else is better placed to take decisions about the Scottish economy than the people who live, work and run businesses here.”
However, Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie warned the SNP’s currency plans post-independence could hit growth.
He said: “Since 2010, Liberal Democrats in government have helped businesses in Scotland create more than 130,000 jobs. None of these positions were contingent on Scotland becoming independent. The finance secretary needs to spend less time picking jobs figures out of the air and more time explaining how walking away from the pound and putting a barrier between Scottish firms and our biggest market would help get more people in work.”