Scottish government's strategy targets green economy

Finance Secretary John Swinney says the economic plan will see an "investment in people"

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As many as 600 companies which could produce goods and services for the "green economy" are being targeted as part of a new economic strategy.

The move to a low-carbon economy is the most significant addition to the Scottish government's strategy.

Economic agency Scottish Enterprise wants companies to tap into the boom in orders for renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.

Engineering and aerospace firms are among those it thinks could benefit.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said a "low-carbon" economy and innovation in areas such as renewable energy could see millions of pounds of investment.

He also wanted a 50% increase in exports by 2017, as well as boosting inward investment.

Ministers have already pledged to give every young person a training opportunity.

The finance secretary said his blueprint set out a vision for the public and private sectors to work alongside academic experts and voluntary groups to boost growth and create jobs.

Opposition parties dismissed is as a rehash, and said the plans did not add up.

Mr Swinney unveiled his economic strategy as the latest report from experts at the Bank of Scotland suggested the Scottish economy was showing resilience in the face of the global slowdown.

The government has updated its economic drive from its first term in government to encourage the move to a low-carbon economy.

Mr Swinney said a greener economy had already delivered "significant" investment to Scotland, and could support 130,000 jobs by 2020.

"In light of the global downturn, the strategy also takes the opportunity to sharpen our focus on areas where there is considerable growth potential for Scotland," he said.

"Scotland is home to a wealth of ambitious, innovative companies and it's essential that we do all we can to help these businesses capitalise on opportunities in new international growth markets."

Mr Swinney added: "In Scotland, the recession was both shorter and shallower compared to the UK as a whole, but events in Europe and the US have demonstrated the fragility of the global recovery.

"This government recognises the importance of focusing all efforts, across the public sector, on ensuring that Scotland is best placed to capitalise on new economic opportunities and that the benefits can be shared across communities."

As well as boosting green jobs, the Scottish government also aims to:

  • Introduce four "enterprise areas" to attract new investment and jobs to Scotland
  • Establish a "next generation digital fund" to roll out super fast broadband across Scotland.
  • Use the £9bn in the public procurement coffers to help Scottish firms compete effectively for contracts.
  • Encourage private investment in offshore renewable energy with the £70m fund helping leverage private sector investment to develop the necessary infrastructure to support offshore renewables.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, said: "The Scottish government's economic strategy simply doesn't add up.

"Its words fly in the face of spending decisions already taken by ministers to cut capital investment."

He added: "The Scottish government is the last administration in the UK to publish four-year spending figures.

"That means we have no idea if their spending review will support their economic aims."

Richard Baker, the Labour finance spokesman, welcomed the strategy as a distinctive plan for Scotland, but argued it was lacking in fresh thinking.

And he said the economic strategy document spent too much time complaining that Scotland's hands were tied without independence.

Mr Baker added: "Instead of focussing so much on what they can't do, Alex Salmond, John Swinney and the SNP should concentrate on what they can do to boost the Scottish economy with the £30bn budget at their disposal.

"In fact, Scottish business leaders have told John Swinney that his 'number one priority', the independence referendum, is causing uncertainty for business at a time of economic difficulty."

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