Scottish independence would give “economic tools”

Picture: Greg Macvean
Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE powers of independence could boost Scotland’s economy, create jobs and “build a more equal and more prosperous society”, according to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.

The Scottish Government is only able to do so much to mitigate the impact of Westminster cuts, he said.

“Using the powers of the Scottish Parliament, we have cushioned 500,000 Scots against London cuts to council tax benefit but we cannot stop more than 82,000 households, including over 15,000 families with children, from having the bedroom tax inflicted upon them.

“In recent years, in the face of Westminster’s austerity agenda, we have led the rest of the UK on attracting inward investment, done all we can to protect capital spending and prioritised youth employment so that we have the sixth-best rates in Europe.

“But we lack the key economic tools that could be used to boost Scotland’s economy further, create more jobs and help build a more equal and more prosperous society.

“We have up to a quarter of the European Union’s offshore renewable energy potential, but no control over the electricity market reform process which has spread such uncertainty over renewables.

“We have the major share of the European Union’s oil production. But we had to watch when a number of UK tax changes in the last decade delayed investment in our offshore fields.

He went on: “We can’t clear the country of nuclear weapons. We can’t even prevent fuel poverty in energy-rich Scotland.

“With devolution, we can mitigate the impact of some Westminster decisions. But it is mitigation, and no more.”

A Scotland Office spokesman said: “Devolution continues to deliver for Scotland, giving the best of both worlds: a strong Parliament in Scotland which is receiving more powers through the Scotland Act 2012, coupled with the UK Parliament giving Scotland an influential voice within the UK family.

“The devolved powers at Holyrood give the Scottish Government a huge amount of flexibility to set policies that benefit the lives of people in Scotland.

“There is a strong positive case for Scotland staying within the UK, from a single market for trade to our influence in the world and the advantages from being a single UK, whether that is subsidies for renewable energy in Scotland or an economy which can manage volatility and risk.

“The referendum raises many questions about Scotland’s future. We are answering them through the Scotland analysis papers and in other ways. The Scottish Government must provide its own answers on how independence would affect life in Scotland on a range of issues from pensions, currency and welfare spending to the set-up costs of creating a new state from scratch.”

A Better Together spokesman said: “Alex Salmond wants us to believe that if we vote for separation then somehow everything will change. But nothing will change. It is absolute rubbish.

“He wants to break up the United Kingdom and is using every cynical ploy open to him to try and achieve that. At a time when we should be breaking down barriers, he wants to put new ones up. When we should be looking for ways to bring people together, he is dreaming up ways of forcing them apart. When we ought to be celebrating everything that unites us as citizens, he is looking for ways to give air to grievances and to blame everything on someone else.

“His vision of our country’s future is not about what is best for our young people, our public services and our pensions. It is only about realising his long-held ambition of separating Scotland from our closest neighbours. We will work every day between now and the vote to ensure that we stay united with our friends, families and workmates.”