Our vision is of a Scotland with a competitive, fairer and more sustainable economy. In government, we’ve already delivered a great deal of progress for Scotland. More people are in work than when the recession hit, our economy is growing faster than the UK as a whole, exports are up and our higher education R&D spend is amongst the highest in the developed world. But if we are to to lead the future, we have to go much further.
We want Scotland to be the inventor and the manufacturer of the digital, high tech and low carbon innovations that will shape the future, not just a consumer of them. To do that we are increasing support for research and development; investing in low-carbon innovation; and establishing a National Manufacturing Institute in Renfrewshire.
We are establishing a Scottish National Investment Bank to give businesses the long-term capital they need to grow and create jobs. This is in addition to the SNP’s long standing support for small businesses through the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which has abolished business rates for around 100,000 premises.
Youth unemployment is now amongst the lowest in Europe and we are outperforming the UK on women’s employment too. To go further, we’re on track to increase the number of Modern Apprenticeships to 30,000 a year by 2020; we continue to maintain at least 116,000 full-time equivalent Scottish Government-funded college places; and university education will always be free under the SNP.
We believe that building a fairer society goes hand-in-hand with building a stronger economy. To deliver a more inclusive economy we are taking action to increase the number of people who are paid a real Living Wage. In 2011 we became the first government in the UK to pay the Living Wage to its staff; and there are now 1000 real Living Wage accredited employers in Scotland. At Westminster, we back a transition towards payment of the real Living wage as a new minimum legal requirement to all adults above the age of 18.
We are committed to tackling exploitative working practices too. In government, we are making payment of the real Living Wage, transparency on gender-equal pay and exclusion of zero-hours contracts criteria for the award of job-related public sector grants. At Westminster, we support abolishing exploitative zero hours contracts.
We reject the austerity approach of the Tory UK government and believe in a progressive tax system that supports high quality public services. We have used new powers over Income Tax to make the system fairer and support investment in schools and hospitals.
Too many of the powers needed to deliver our vision for a fairer, more prosperous Scotland still lie at Westminster. The SNP will continue to push for the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament over job creation, taxation, social security and wages to allow us to make policies best suited to our economy.