SCOTLAND’S economy has flatlined in opening months of the year, with industry leaders warning the post-Brexit future brings little hope of any improvement.
The latest GDP statistics show 0 per cent growth between January and March in a further sign of divergence between the economies north and south of the Border. UK growth in the same period between January and March was 0.4 per cent.
Leading economist Professor John McLaren has warned that prospects for growth “are probably bleaker now than at any time since the finance-led crisis in 2008.”
Better news for the economy in Scotland was a fall in unemployment of 18,000 between March and May 2016, but the rate is still 0.6 per cent above the UK level.
Liz Cameron from the Scottish Chamber of Commerce said: “Scotland’s growth has now been at a fraction of that of the UK as a whole for a full year and there are few signs of a major improvement in sight.
“In the light of the EU referendum result, the Scottish and UK governments must take all steps necessary to support businesses at this time and help them to invest for the future and get our economy back on the path of growth.”
Annual growth from the first quarter of 2015 to the same period this year showed the Scottish economy grew by 0.6 per cent. Equivalent UK growth was 2 per cent.
Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “These pre-referendum figures demonstrate that the Scottish economy was underperforming before the vote. While a decline in unemployment is good news, there’s a worrying gap between the UK and Scottish jobless rates.”
The Scottish Government Business Minister, Paul Wheelhous,e said the Scottish economy has “strong fundamentals.”
But he went on: ”Businesses face uncertainty during negotiations over our future relationship with the EU, we will not only work hard to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU, but will strive to make the most of current and future opportunities in our economy as set out in our economic strategy.”
But Prof McLaren, a former economist at HM Treasury and the Scotland Office, said: “As a result of the major headwinds facing the economy, prospects for 2016 and 2017 are not good.”
The Liberal Democrats urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to abandon her second independence drive and focus on the “day job” of running Scotland.