SNP under fire over economic setbacks

The Scottish Government has missed five of their own economic targets since coming to power, according to Tory research.

Economy secretary Keith Brown. Picture: John Devlin
Economy secretary Keith Brown. Picture: John Devlin

The shortfall has cost the economy more than £80 billion, as Scotland failed to match growth across the rest of the UK and the GDP of smaller EU nations. The SNP administration also fell short in efforts to increase productivity and exports, as well as increasing research and development, the research said.

The Tories say the figures reveal the “failure” of the Scottish Government to grow the economy and support business.

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But the Scottish Government says Scotland “outperforms” other UK regions outside London and the south-east, while indicators such as retail sales and manufactured exports are in strong shape.

Economy secretary Keith Brown. Picture: John Devlin

The ambition to match UK levels of growth was a flagship target of Alex Salmond when he became First Minister in 2007 – and this was quickly achieved as North Sea oil and gas industry boomed.

But Scotland’s economy nosedived after the global oil price crash of 2014 with growth now barely a third of the wider UK level. This has been the equivalent of £1.5bn in lost revenues, while the deficit to smaller EU nations’ GDP cost £4bn.

The target to increase exports by £27.8bn was missed, along with a target to increase research and development by £600 million.

Added together and combined with the estimated cost of Scotland’s low productivity rate, the missed targets amount to more than £80bn, the analysis suggests.

Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the figures were “desperate”.

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He added: “These figures lay bare the utter failure of the SNP to grow our economy and support Scottish businesses.

“The SNP’s failure to grow the economy means less money for schools and hospitals.

“And while Scotland’s economy is struggling, the Scottish government deficit is one of the highest in Europe. The SNP’s only solution is to raise taxes on hardworking Scots, which will simply make this situation worse.”

The respected Fraser of Allander of Allander (FAI) Institute warned earlier this year that there is a “confusing and cluttered” approach to boosting the country’s GDP.

But a spokesman for economy secretary Keith Brown said the biggest threat to the economy was a Tory-driven “hard Brexit”.

He said: “The fact is, since the financial crisis and recession, Scotland’s productivity has outperformed all other parts of the UK outside London and south-east England and it is encouraging to see that GDP grew across 2017 – ending the year over 1 per cent higher than the previous year.

“Figures for the first quarter of 2018 show retail sales also grew by 0.5 per cent, rebounding from a slight decline at the end of 2017, while manufactured exports also increased by over 7 per cent.

“The UK’s growth of just 0.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 reflects the effect of Brexit and the weak growth expected for the UK relative to other major economies.”