Yousaf calls for split from ‘failed UK economic model’
First Minister Humza Yousaf insisted Scotland needed to be free of a “failed UK economic model” to forge its own path by rejoining the EU and building a strategy to invest in the industries of the future.
The First Minister told an audience at Glasgow University that the UK’s living standards are “abnormally low” and the country is the “poor man of north west Europe”, though he made no mention of Germany’s possible plunge into recession.
Setting out his vision for the Scottish economy under independence he said the Government would appoint an industrial policy minister supported by a council of advisers which would also monitor the work of the enterprise networks, Scottish National Investment Bank and Skills Development Scotland.
A capital spending fund of up to £20 billion over the first decade of independence to stimulate economic growth and productivity would be financed through oil revenues and, if needed, borrowing. This confirmed his view that oil and gas will continue to feed into the economy for years ahead.
On the forthcoming UK budget when the Chancellor is expected to cut income tax, Mr Yousaf said he would look again at rates and bands in Scotland, but added: “If anyone wants to us to revise our plans they will have to say where we take that money from.”
The Scottish budget, which introduced a new income tax band and a hike in the higher levy, will be voted on by MSPs before Jeremy Hunt announces his statement on 6 March.
The SNP leader referred to a report from the Resolution Foundation looking at income inequality in the UK compared with other countries, stating that the average household would be £8,300 better off if the UK had the average income inequality of similar countries.
Using the same analysis for Scotland, he said: “The prize for the typical Scottish household would be even greater, they would be £10,200 better off. That then, is the huge prize of independence.”
He denied this was fantasy economics as claimed by the opposition who point to Scotland being the highest taxed area of the UK.
He insisted that independence is “urgent because damaging economic trends are becoming hard-wired into the UK and Scottish economies: regardless of which party is in charge at Westminster.”
Mr Yousaf said the Tory Government was so reliant on London that it was pumping investment into the city through a fear that if anything happened to the London economy “the whole UK House of Cards will collapse”.
He said he could find a way to work with Sir Keir Starmer and that he has urged the Labour leader not to backtrack on his plans to invest in renewables.
Telling his that he expects Sir Keir to become the next Prime Minister, he expressed concern that Sir Keir would not be committed to the strategy.
“My worry is that his ambition will become diluted,” he said.
Mr Yousaf’s comments form part of a series of papers on the case for independence and coincided with the launch of Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s priorities for the coming general election.
In a speech that made 34 references to change, changed or changing, Mr Sarwar made few actual policy commitments and instead focused on what he described as the failures of both the SNP and the Conservatives and the need to “rebuild and reunite Scotland.”
He promised that workers’ rights would be strengthened to lift people out of poverty and raise tax revenues. He referenced Sir Keir Starmer’s plans for a publicly owned energy company headquartered in Scotland and confirmed that it would be a generator.
“That will create tens of thousands of jobs, bring down people’s bills and provide greater energy security,” he claimed.