SNP have led '˜decade of economic mismanagement, Tories claim

The Scottish Conservatives have called for a new direction in economic policy, claiming the SNP Government 'doesn't understand the economy'.

Nicola Sturgeon talks to construction workers on a site in Dumfries
Nicola Sturgeon talks to construction workers on a site in Dumfries

In the second day of debate on the SNP legislative plan unveiled by the First Minister on Tuesday, Tory economy spokesman Dean Lockhart said the proposed measures, which include opening the door to tax rises, were “not the answer”.

Outlining the programme, Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood the time was right for a discussion on how income tax rates and bands could be used in a ‘’responsible and progressive’’ way.

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She said the government would publish a paper setting out the current distribution of income-tax liabilities in Scotland and analysis of ‘’a variety of different options, including the proposals of the other parties across parliament’’, ahead of the budget.

Nicola Sturgeon talks to construction workers on a site in Dumfries

She also announced the establishment of a Scottish National Investment Bank and pledged to “urgently respond” to the recommendations of the Barclay Review of business rates.

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Mr Lockhart said: “Ten years is more than enough time for any government to prove whether or not it can deliver meaningful change.

Nicola Sturgeon talks to construction workers on a site in Dumfries

“This is government that has shown time and again that it doesn’t understand the economy and is incapable of realising Scotland’s potential.

“After a decade of SNP mismanagement, it’s time for a new direction in economic policy and this programme for government is not the answer.”

He said the SNP economy is a “low growth, low wage, low innovation and low enterprise economy”, and called on the government to reverse tax policy making Scotland the highest taxed area in the UK and warned against further tax rises.

Mr Lockhart said: “Any suggestion yesterday by the First Minister to further increase the tax burden in Scotland for highly skilled workers would be the wrong policy response.

“Concerns have already been expressed by leading organisations that further SNP tax increases would further damage Scotland’s economy.”

Opening the debate, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham emphasised the focus on green policies in the legislative programme, including increasing targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% by 2050 and to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.

She told the chamber such moves would benefit both the environment and the economy, stressing that country “must accelerate our transition to a low carbon economy”.

She added: “The low carbon economy is already worth more than £10 billion to Scotland’s economy, and supports nearly 60,000 jobs. But it’s time to go further and faster.

She continued: “The programme for government shows that going green doesn’t put us in the red.

“Harnessing our natural and human capital not only adds to our wellbeing but is integral to our nation’s future economic success.”

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie also attacked the government’s economic record and its proposals for the future.

“It’s nearly 10 years since ambitious targets were set for Scotland’s economy,” she said.

“We have an economic strategy that has not been refreshed despite Brexit. And there is no real attempt to evaluate what works.

“In truth, the SNP has been content for our economy to dawdle along in the slow lane.”

She labelled many of the programme for government commitments as “re-announcements”, and criticised a lack of detail on the national investment bank - a long-stated Labour demand.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so I thank you for copying Labour’s idea,” Ms Baillie said.

“But there is no detail about how it will work and where the money is coming from.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles criticised the SNP administration’s handling of the rural economy, including delays to farming payments caused by major IT problems and planning for Brexit.

He said the issues facing those in rural areas had been absent from Ms Sturgeon’s announcement.

He said: “Yesterday I listened carefully to the First Minister when she opened this debate on her programme for government.

“She said absolutely nothing about the problems facing our rural economy.”