THE UK is in chaos – time to put economic certainty back in Scotland’s future. Remember the heady days of last week when all we had to worry about was leaving the European Union? And before June last year when all we had to worry about was maintaining a steady and slow recovery from the most recent recession? A new General Election may be a welcome distraction for news reporters, but for those of us who have been entrusted with the day-job of building Scotland’s economy, it’s another disruptive and distracting stunt by a Westminster government in chaos.
The Scottish Government have been getting on with the day-job, creating employment, with some 16,000 new jobs delivered over the past three months. Scotland now enjoys the lowest unemployment levels anywhere in the UK. We have achieved the best inward investment level anywhere outside London, and have been the only part of the UK to be actively fixing the productivity puzzle, with growth in productivity four times that of the rest of the UK. And we’re doing this with one hand tied behind our back because most of the key economic and fiscal levers are controlled by Westminster. We are working day in and day out to do what we were elected to do – build a better, fairer, economy for Scotland but have faced constant interruptions and distractions from an indecisive UK Government.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s recent request for a second referendum on independence was met with derision and the claims that the uncertainty of a referendum in Scotland would cause a drag on the economy. On the contrary, a report by the Fraser of Allander institute found that the last independence referendum caused negligible upset to the short-term financial markets. On the other hand, the 2010 General Election caused much more market volatility, and the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU was, unsurprisingly, the biggest economic upset in recent memory. It’s difficult not to draw from this data the conclusion that Scotland’s economy could be protected from a substantial amount of economic uncertainty if we took matters into our own hands.
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If the opposition parties are concerned with uncertainty, maybe they could have a word with the PM. On Tuesday, the FTSE suffered the biggest single-day drop since the Brexit vote, losing 170 points and wiping £45 billion off the value of UK companies when Theresa May announced her latest "strategy" for dealing with Brexit. This is what uncertainty looks like. Uncertainty looks like a government who is dragging the UK out of Europe to settle an argument in the Tory party. Uncertainty looks like the refusal to guarantee rights of EU workers, who contribute a great deal to our economy. It looks like the Great Repeal Bill, which threatens to remove employment rights for everyone. It looks like shutting down Westminster for a month because they can’t think of anything better to do. Now more than ever, Scotland’s future will be much better off in our own hands.