Salmond reveals dream of Celtic Lion economy

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond today outlined his ambitions for a Celtic Lion economy to emerge in Scotland to rival the success of Ireland's Celtic Tiger.

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York this morning, Mr Salmond set out his vision to transform Scotland's historic economic under performance and replicate the success of Ireland.

He said: "Scotland is undergoing the most dramatic transformation of our expectations and is involved in a reassessment of our future.

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"There is a determination to emerge from many years of economic under-performance and cultural timidity.

"We have everything it takes for a Celtic Lion economy to take off in Scotland.

"What we require is vision and leadership to enable us to make it happen. Ireland has shown what is possible and there is no reason why we could not match their tiger with our lion.

"My message to the rest of the world is simple: Scotland is open for business and flourishing, an independent Scotland will be open for business and an even better place to do business."

He added: "My hope for Scotland is that we will be honest about where we are and ambitious about where we can go. And, perhaps, as people now talk about the wonder of the Irish Celtic Tiger, within the next generation we can introduce the world to a new marvel - the Scottish Celtic Lion."

The First Minister visited the Stock Exchange on Wall Street yesterday and met potential investors and companies with links to Scotland.

And he also took part in a round of interviews with the US media including the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox.

Mr Salmond said North America was Scotland's most important market, particularly for tourism. He said the trip was about promoting Scotland as a destination for both business and leisure.

The First Minister also met potential investors, understood to be a financial management group and a biotech firm, thought to be on the verge of investing significant sums in Scotland.

He told his audience that he wanted Scotland's economy to match the UK's performance by 2011.

He said: "Our nearest three neighbours - Norway, Iceland and Ireland - are respectively the first, second and fourth most prosperous countries in the world according to the UN Human Development Index.

"Ultimately, matching their growth rates, and the rates of other small EU nations, is paramount. It is these nations that are remarkably outperforming the UK.

" Initially, though, matching the growth rate of the UK is the first step. By growing as fast as the UK, Scotland's ten-year growth rate would reach 2.8 percent."

Mr Salmond also made reference to the recent creation of a council of economic advisors in Scotland similar to the one in the United States.

Before heading to the US, the First Minister declared he intended to make a bigger impact on the world stage than his Labour predecessors.