John Swinney on jobs, investment and the economy.

John Swinney writes on investment in Scotland and the action the Tory Chancellor should take in the autumn budget statement to boost economic growth.

AMAZON, Mitsubishi, Dell, Avaloq, FMC Technologies, Doosan Power Systems, Ineos/PetroChina and Michelin – the roll call of major international companies who have decided to invest in Scotland in recent months goes on and on and is a massive vote of confidence in our country, our workforce and skills base.‪
 
Amazon’s investment alone underlines the scale of that confidence – their Dunfermline distribution centre opened by the First Minister this week, is the biggest of its kind anywhere in Europe, and together with other Scottish centres will employ around 3,000 people.‪
 
These investments are having a significant positive effect on the employment situation here in Scotland, where the jobless rate is lower than the rest of the UK and the proportion of people in work is higher.‪
 
The fact that so many major global firms are choosing to invest in Scotland – and there will be more such announcements in the months and years ahead – also completely demolishes the suggestions from Unionist politicians that the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future is having a negative impact on investment.‪
 
Clearly, nothing could be further from the truth. All of these companies are perfectly well aware of the Scottish Government’s plans for an independence referendum in the second half of this five-year parliamentary term – and all of them are happy to proceed with their investment on that basis.‪
 
It really is time that the Unionist cause realised that this kind of baseless scaremongering does nothing to enhance their cause and is increasingly seen for what it is, whether by industry chiefs such as Jim McColl or by the general public.‪
 
It was of course notable that Chancellor George Osborne was unable to name a single company when asked in recent days to substantiate his claims that “major businesses around the world” had asked him about the situation in Scotland  before deciding whether to invest here.‪
 
His Tory colleague, Scotland Office minister David Mundell, was similarly unable to offer a single name to back up this spurious assertion – despite being asked the question eight times in the course of a BBC interview last week.‪
 
A survey of foreign direct investment in the UK, carried out by Ernst & Young, showed that Scotland was far and away the most successful part of the UK in attracting overseas investment last year. And the recent spate of announcements shows that this trend has continued since the May election and the SNP’s overall Holyrood majority, which has guaranteed an independence referendum.‪
 
But perhaps even more insidious than the unsubstantiated claims by the Chancellor over foreign companies’ attitudes to Scotland is the possibility that Mr Osborne’s comments were actually motivated by fellow Conservative politicians in the North-east of England, who have openly urged the UK Government to redress a perceived Scottish advantage in landing inward investment.
 
Linda Arkley, the Tory Mayor of North Tyneside, is reported to have gone to the Conservative Party conference last month to lobby Tory ministers over fears the region was losing out to Scotland in terms of jobs and investment. She was later reported to have said that UK ministers “have agreed to look at this”.‪
 
Ms Arkley has also written to UK Cabinet ministers claiming that North-east England’s economic recovery prospects will be undermined if Scotland gains more responsibility for its own finances, such as corporation tax. She has urged her Tory colleagues in London to ensure that “in all negotiations with the Scottish Government, to consider the implications of any greater freedoms for Scotland”.‪
 
That is why I wrote to the Chancellor last week, making it clear that Scotland’s economic prospects cannot – and must not – be sabotaged by such blatant lobbying against our interests by his Tory colleagues.‪
 
Other parts of the UK must fight their own corner, and I would expect nothing less. But it would be unforgivable of Mr Osborne and his coalition colleagues were he to allow such lobbying to lead to deliberate attempts to sabotage jobs and investment in Scotland.
 
Thankfully, as that list of major international corporations makes clear, industry chiefs are only too keen to bring jobs to Scotland, and are unfazed by Westminster scare stories.‪
 
With the powers of independence, Scotland will become an even more attractive place to do business. And the scaremongering of Tory Chancellors will, thankfully, be nothing but a distant memory.‪‪