Independence will bring opportunities for growth

The next two years will give everyone the chance to consider the opportunities that spring from a Yes vote, and the consequences that come from voting No.

All of us, on all sides of the argument are now duty bound to set out the opportunities we see for Scotland in the years and decades ahead.

As part of the UK we know we face seven more years of austerity. More cuts, a lack of investment and low growth.

For business Scotland’s independence offers an alternative. A government, with the best interests of Scotland at its heart, with the full tools to invest in the economy, to support growth and to stimulate entrepreneurship so that Scotland can flourish.

And the last few years show the difference a government putting Scotland first could make.

The games industry is worth far more to Scotland than to the rest of UK but while the Scottish Government backed the industry’s call for a tax incentive to ensure it remains competitive the UK Government dithered and delayed for two years, offering no opportunity and no stability. In contrast when our small businesses asked for help, because those responsibilities are held by the Scottish Parliament, we were able to put in place a rates relief programme that has supported over 80,000 businesses through the recession.

Our renewable energy industry is facing the challenge of a UK government that is failing to recognise its importance. Companies who are looking to increase their investments are increasingly concerned that the UK Government instead of offering its support is ploughing ahead with charges that hinder not help an industry that could generate thousands of jobs in communities across Scotland.

Our shared interest in success across Scotland has enabled us to bring organisations together to grow the economy leading Ernst & Young to find that, for the second year running, Scotland has outperformed every other part of the UK in generating employment from inward investment.

In contrast the UK Government’s decision to abolish enterprise agencies in England is held responsible for the continued dominance of London and the south East.

So where we have the responsibilities our record shows that a government with Scotland’s interests first and foremost will use those powers to support growth, to generate revenues and to fulfil our social contract.

As an independent nation with those responsibilities extended our ability to bring people, organisations, the collective skills of our business community and the talents of the people of Scotland together would become stronger.

We will have for the first time, the opportunity to bring the dynamic approach we have taken to enterprise to every other area of business life.

As we have reduced taxes for small businesses we could support our tourism and construction industries with the VAT reductions they have long argued would boost their business.

If as the government responsible for enterprise we were also responsible for taxation, the full range of employment policies and business regulation we could make the system work in Scotland’s interest instead of having different organisations pulling in different directions.

With the additional powers from the Scotland Act we have created Revenue Scotland to collect those taxes on property sales and landfill that are being transferred. There are few people who sing the praises of the UK’s management of HMRC. In Scotland we have the opportunity to show we can improve tax collecting and make it more efficient for business, reduce evasion and deliver better government.

In the same way I am attracted to improving the way in which business is regulated and at the same time improving the service that business gives to consumers.

Becoming independent allows us to adapt best practice from other countries, not simply be restricted to the worst practice in the UK and to explore all the options that independence offers us to simplify our world without easing up on responsibilities.

At the moment, as part of the UK, we have one body to regulate the energy sector, one to regulate water prices, one for telecoms and postal services and in transport, there are separate regulators for rail and air. Alongside all of these bodies, we have the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission. Each has specialist expertise and a role to fulfil that must be retained. However, independence opens up an opportunity to simplify the regulatory landscape in Scotland to one that better reflects our size.

By bringing together some, or all, of regulation in these sectors along with competition, life for the consumer and for business could become easier. Scotland’s economy would see the benefits of a consistent, predictable and efficient approach in this area.

This is just one area where we can make the case for Scotland’s independence and the opportunities that flow from it. We are collecting views from stakeholders on the opportunities that controlling regulation and consumer affairs could bring.

So as we approach the referendum in 2014 and the prospect of taking on the responsibilities that will allow us to make Scotland stronger and more prosperous there are real opportunities for business to take. I will set out over the next two years where I believe those opportunities lie, to create growth and boost business and I will engage with all those in our economy who have an interest in Scotland’s future.