Yousaf blames Westminster for economic woes
First Minister Humza Yousaf will once again blame Westminster for Scotland’s under performance when he promises that the economy will only thrive under independence.
In a speech at Glasgow University on Monday the SNP leader will say that the Brexit-based UK economy has failed people in Scotland and that UK-based political parties are offering no alternatives to the failed Westminster economic model.
Mr Yousaf will outline how independence will raise productivity and living standards. He will also set out the foundations for an industrial policy in an independent Scotland.
It will be the first of a new series of papers that will be evidence-based and designed to encourage an inclusive debate on a “better way forward” for Scotland’s economy and society.
He is expected to repeat a previous statement by saying: “The Resolution Foundation concluded that if the UK had the average income and inequality of similar countries then the typical household would be £8,300 better off.
“If we use the same analysis for countries that are similar to Scotland – such as Denmark, Ireland and Finland – the difference for the typical Scottish household would be even greater. They would be £10,200 better off.
“That is the prize of independence. Not to match the performance of those independent countries overnight, no-one is saying that, but to start catching-up so Scotland’s level of prosperity becomes more normal, more like that of comparable nations. It is that UK that is the outlier.
“Scotland has extraordinary resources such as renewable energy and key economic strengths.
“Since the SNP came into office productivity and GDP per head have grown faster than for the UK as a whole.
“But the UK economy is characterised by low growth, low productivity and chronic inequality: social, economic and geographical.
“Both Labour and the Conservatives agree that the UK should be out of the EU and the huge European Single Market, and they both want to cut vital inward migration.
“Those are just two examples which demonstrate that for the two main UK parties, Westminster political interests will always over-ride Scottish economic interests.
“Keir Starmer’s inability to offer any alternative to the managed decline of the UK is an abdication of leadership.
“The SNP Scottish Government will ensure that Scotland, its economy, and its people are not ignored by Westminster.”
Mr Yousaf will release further papers this year on building economic consensus to benefit business, encouraging investment, workers’ rights and the labour market, and ownership and governance
Opponents say the SNP has failed to use its devolved powers effectively and has a poor record on the economy. It has created tensions with the business community by raising taxes, imposing more regulations and levies, and cutting funding for key sectors such as housing that could help stimulate growth.
Business leaders accuse the government of talking about collaboration, then introducing measures which are damaging. These include “stealth” taxes such as the proposed reintroduction of a public health supplement on retailers which was mentioned in the Budget document but not announced to MSPs.
Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservative finance spokeswoman, said it “beggars belief” that Mr Yousaf will “lecture people on economics” after his government “created a £1.5 billion black hole in Scotland’s finances”.
She said: “The SNP has presided over stagnant growth and utterly failed to engage with business or promote economic prosperity.
“He attacks the Westminster settlement delivering the highest ever block grants, a public spending bonus worth more than £2,000 a head and a huge tax cut in national insurance.
“By contrast, his SNP government made Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK and has just raised taxes yet again to cover completely uncosted wage rises, council budgets and botched vanity projects.
“It’s difficult to know which is more alarming — the first minister’s economic illiteracy or his arrogant unawareness of it.”
Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Daniel Johnson said Scotland’s potential has been held back by an SNP government “bereft of ideas or ambition”.
He said: “The SNP’s low growth economy has robbed billions of pounds from Scotland’s economy all while people are being asked to pay more for less.
“Families don’t need fantasy economics from Humza Yousaf in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, they need his government to get a grip on its waste and incompetence.
“While Labour talks about how we can change our economy to make work pay and put money back into your pocket, the SNP and the Tories seem to be having a competition to see who can sound more out of touch.
“Scots are sick of paying the price of SNP failure – we need a government focused on growing our economy, creating quality jobs, and protecting public services.”
Sarwar calls for ‘change’
On Monday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar will try to convince people that 2024 is a “year of change” by highlighting both Tory and SNP “failure”.
In a brief preview of his address setting out his “priorities”, he used the word change or changing 12 times but did not explain how things would change.
Speaking in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency which it won last autumn, he will say: “I don’t support independence, and I don’t support a referendum, but I accept that we need change right now.
“We may ultimately disagree on the final destination for Scotland, but on this part of the journey, let’s unite to change our country and get rid of this Tory government.
“Give us the opportunity to show you that we can make the UK work for every corner of our country, including here in Scotland. The chance to show you that change is possible, and that this isn’t as good as it gets.
“Because I believe with a Labour government, we can do better than the managed decline of the Tories and the SNP.”
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “Anas Sarwar has come alarmingly late to the obvious truth that the SNP’s time in government has been incredibly damaging.
“That is because, on policies ranging from gender recognition reform to their disastrous financial policies, Labour has slavishly voted with Humza Yousaf’s government.
“Mr Sarwar predictably ignores the fact that in a host of seats across Scotland, the only way to get rid of the toxic SNP is to vote for the Scottish Conservative Party, which remains the only party committed to providing robust opposition in Holyrood while remaining focused on people’s real priorities.”