Scotland has the means to meet the ambitions of the people of Scotland and would deliver a better future, Finance Secretary John Swinney said today.
Addressing the Scotsman conference “A Question of Independence - The Economics of Independence", Mr Swinney said that Scotland’s ability to be independent, to stand on her own two feet and to do so successfully, is beyond question.
Mr Swinney also said that the UK governments of the last thirty years have failed to maximise Scotland’s potential and that the achievements under devolution showed that a Scottish Government could achieve much for the country.
Mr Swinney said: “Over the past thirty years up to the financial crisis, growth in Scotland averaged 2.1 per cent against 2.7 per cent in other comparable small EU countries and the wealth we have delivered for the UK has not been shared.
“Such figures are all the more frustrating as despite a period of unprecedented growth in the global economy, the previous UK Government missed a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver a real improvement in prosperity and social equality. Instead, growth was squandered on an unsustainable boom that benefitted the few rather than the many.
“Since coming to office in 2007 the Scottish Government has taken forward a range of measures to help unlock Scotland’s economic potential, including modernising the planning system, creating the most favourable business rates environment in the UK and introducing measures such as the Small Business Bonus scheme to support small businesses. We have also acted to protect the NHS in Scotland while the NHS in England faces the biggest threat to its values in history.
“Where we can act we have made our intention clear and our performance speaks for itself. But we can go further. We need to invest in our infrastructure, skills and education; knock down barriers to growth where they arise; and use our tax and economic powers wisely to attract and reward business growth.
“It is clear to me that Scotland is well placed to meet the challenges of the future and to deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society and in addition to oil and gas, Scotland has a strong economy and asset base.
“We have assets in the form of renewable energy – we have 10 per cent of Europe’s wave energy, 25 per cent of its tidal energy and 25 per cent of its offshore wind resources. We also have a strong intellectual base with many of our Universities appearing as the top global places of learning. We are strong in the areas of science, engineering, technology and financial services.
“Scotland has the financial and academic base to improve our economic performance and deliver opportunities for all. However, independence would enhance those opportunities further. We could create a fiscal edge to encourage more business centres to settle and prosper in Scotland. We could use incentives to develop the Higher Education R&D, renewable energy and low carbon sectors. We could also boost our international profile and contribute to key decision making on the European and global stage and develop links with key trading partners.
“Only with the full levers of independence can Scotland properly capture economic opportunity and tackle inequality and poverty and we can do so more efficiently and effectively than currently happens in the UK."