Daily question: How quickly is the Scottish economy growing and could it do better?

As the people of Scotland weigh up how to vote in the independence referendum, they are asking questions on a range of topics.

In this series, we are looking at those major questions and by using statistics, analysis and expert views shining a light on some of the possible answers.

Here, we delve deeper into the issue of Scotland's economic growth and what might happen to it in the future, whether it be a "Yes" or a "No" vote in September.

Do you have a referendum question? Let us know by....

BBC news website user, Boyd Finlay, asks: "How will an independent Scotland increase innovation cycles to commercialise itself into economic growth? What can be done that cannot be done now?"

What are the most up to date figures?
Scottish government figures

Scottish GDP grew 1% during the first quarter of 2014, faster than the UK's 0.8%. Comparing that quarter to the same period in 2013, Scottish GDP grew 2.6%, a fraction less than the UK rate of 3%.

Scotland's economy has been growing and shrinking at a roughly similar rate to the rest of the UK over the last decade. BBC Scotland's business and economy editor Douglas Fraser has noted that Scotland's economy has tracked along the lines of the UK average in a number of areas for a long time. Its economy didn't dip quite as low during the recession, but the two economies have followed a similar trajectory.

Why does it matter?
Crowds of shoppers

Everyone wants the economy to be growing fast because it means that more money is being made, more people are in work, more taxes are taken, and the government has more money to spend.

Both sides in the referendum debate clap loudly when Scotland's quarterly growth figures are announced and claim responsibility. The UK government say that Scotland is experiencing the current bounce-back in growth figures that's being reflected in the UK figures, and the Scottish government say that Scotland is doing well because of specific policies being applied in Scotland. At the moment the reality is probably a little bit of both.

So is the UK government delivering growth for Scotland?
Westminster in a swirl, distortion graphic

Although we've already seen that Scotland's growth rate has tracked the UK's, there are serious concerns about whether the Westminster policies are really able to spread growth across Scotland.

Just because the overall economy is growing that doesn't mean that everyone is experiencing the benefits, and there is big variance across Scotland.

The Scottish government points out in its economic plans that "under the current framework these regional disparities are often ignored in policy thinking at the UK level and while recognised in Scotland, the lack of levers constrains opportunities to fully address such challenges in a joined-up and truly transformational way".

Could an independent economy grow faster?

The Scottish Government's White Paper said faster economic growth could be achieved by specific decisions that could only be made with the powers of independence. Firstly they plan to boost the number of working people in Scotland. They also want to boost productivity, and increase employment by 2029.

1. Boosting Productivity - The Scottish government is aiming to increase productivity by 0.3%, which it correctly says would be worth £2.4bn a year in extra tax income. It's worth noting that this is a 0.3% increase for Scotland, on top of the 2.2% increase already predicted for the rest of the UK. So it's a 2.5% increase that they're aiming for.

There are a couple of ways to boost productivity as a country. Either you make companies work smarter through better research and development to streamline and speed up processes, or you get workers to work harder. The Scottish government say it'll be able to do that "by tailoring economic policy to maximise Scotland's economic strengths and to address the specific challenges that Scotland faces".

But boosting productivity is not an easy thing to achieve. The low level of productivity in the UK is a problem that economists have been trying to tackle for years, and certainly does not seem to be a simple issue to fix.

There's also the thorny issue of oil to throw into the equation. Although the rate of decline in North Sea oil is contested, all sides agree that the reserves will gradually run lower. That means that the rate of GDP growth in Scotland's onshore economy would have to be more than 2.5% to make up for that, which is a tall order.

Academics at Durham University Business School have argued that there is a serious and under-addressed productivity gap in Scotland, and that the 0.3% above trend year-on-year productivity increase would be extremely difficult to achieve post-independence.

2. Boosting employment

The Scottish government is planning to get an extra 3.3% of the population into work, from 71% to 74.3%. That would be worth an extra £1.3bn in income taxes by 2029-30. Although 3.3% might not sound like a lot, it's about 27,000 jobs.

The plan to do this involves attracting more companies to base themselves in Scotland, and to encourage local companies to grow by lowering the amount of tax companies pay. An independent Scotland would cut the tax rate businesses pay on their profits to three percentage points lower than the rest of the UK. The Treasury is setting corporation tax at 20% from spring 2015, so that would mean a 17% rate.

They also want to boost exports, encourage more people into work by making in-work benefits more attractive, and support more women in the workforce by providing more hours of free child childcare.

Nobody is really disputing whether these factors would improve economic growth - they would. What is in dispute is whether they are possible to achieve and pay for in the short term.

So would the plans work?

Making different choices in an independent Scotland would certainly impact on growth rates, but the reality is that no one can guarantee whether it would be boosted or hindered. The Scottish government has acknowledged that it's not likely that all of its targets for growth will be met, but it has laid out these plans to show the range that's possible. It's also worth noting that the policy choices of a different Westminster government could also significantly change Scotland's growth rates.

I'm not avoiding the question by saying that we just don't know what impact these policies would have, the bottom line is that lots of factors have an impact on economic growth, lots of them outside of a government's control.

If either side of this debate promises a certain growth rate, then don't believe them. A vote can't be made for economic growth of a certain percent, or a higher employment rate. The question is whether voters in Scotland would rather those choices were made in Westminster or in Holyrood.

More on This Story

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Scotland Live

    09:39: BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Tonight, showers will gradually ease and will become confined to the north and west coast. There will be clear spells, with temperatures around 1C.

    09:24: Pensioner hit by car

    Police have appealed for witnesses after a 71-year-old man was hit by a car in Dundee.

    The pensioner suffered a serious head injury in the accident which happened on Lyon Street at about 19:30 on Friday and involved a white Vauxhall Corsa.

    The driver of the car was uninjured but the pedestrian remains in Ninewells Hospital.

    Police closed the road for several hours and officers have appealed for witnesses.

    09:20: Cold snap hits the Highlands

    Heavy snow falls have closed a small number of schools and affected driving conditions in the Highlands.

    Cannich Bridge, St Clement's, Stratherrick and Drummond schools have been shut because of the weather.

    Snow has been falling over large parts of the Highlands including Inverness

    The Met Office has a yellow "be aware" warning in place for large parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

    It warns of wintry showers and ice.

    Text using 80295 Cannabis - Your views

    Anon: I have used cannabis from the age of 15 and am now in my 50s. I have always worked and have had two very successful careers in very different fields. I also have two prolapsed discs in my neck and cannabis is the only thing that eases the pain. I have visited Holland on many occasions to visit their coffee shops and a very pleasurable experience was had but a lot of the grass now available should be treated and used carefully; it can cause some people very serious psychological problems if abused.

    Steve fae Dunoon: I have smoked cannabis daily for 45 years and worked throughout raising three kids to degree level. Skunk is no more harmful. I just use less as drinkers do with whisky. Legalise now.

    08:54: Dave Mackay was the 'perfect midfielder'

    Former Scotland manager Craig Brown has paid tribute to Scotland and Hearts legend Dave Mackay, who has died aged 80.

    "Dave Mackay would be in my all-time greatest Scottish team," Brown told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland.

    Former Scotland manager Craig Brown

    "I watched him play for Hearts, as a boy at the time in the 1950s and, any time Hearts came to the west of Scotland, my father took me to see Dave Mackay.

    "He was inspirational in everything he did and was a wonderful player."

    Brown met Mackay "in his latter years" when he was supporting Derby County in a play-of final against West Brom.

    "As always (he was) modest, like the big stars: Billy McNeill, John Greig, Lawrie Reilly and Gordon Strachan," Brown added.

    "Dave Mackay was the perfect midfield player and would've been worth an absolute fortune today.

    "When you see players like Gareth Bale going to Real Madrid you wonder what Dave Mackay would've been worth in the present market.

    "He was, in every respect, an outstanding exponent."

    BBC Scotland Travel Latest

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    08:34: Morning Call BBC Radio Scotland
    Morning Call

    Call 0500 92 95 00 or text 80295. The show gets under way on BBC Radio Scotland at 08:50.

    Listen live to the programme here.

    08:30: On the back pages

    The boardroom battle at Rangers, Stuart McCall tipped for the Ibrox hot seat and Chelsea eye Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon. It's all the gossip on today's back pages.

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    08:21: Ellon bypass

    Aberdeenshire councillors are being encouraged to opt for a new bypass in Ellon instead of a bridge over the River Ythan.

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    New schools, shops, a hotel, and sports pitches are included.

    The 3km road would link the B9005 to the A920. The issue will be discussed at the Formartine area committee.

    08:16: Online abuse of young Celtic fan

    A man has been charged in connection with "offensive comments" posted online about a young Celtic fan with Down's Syndrome.

    Celtic fan Jay Beatty wins the Scottish Professional Football League Goal of the Month Award for January with a half-time penalty at Hamilton

    Jay Beatty, 11, of Lurgan, County Armagh, won the Scottish Professional Football League Goal of the Month for January.

    Comments about him were allegedly posted on social media after Sunday's match between Celtic and Aberdeen.

    The 19-year-old man is due to appear at Aberdeen Sheriff Court at a later date.

    08:05: Speed, bonnie blow...

    The equipment used to measure wind speeds on the Skye Bridge is to be examined to try to find out why the crossing has been closed so often in the last six months.

    Skye Bridge

    According to figures, it was shut to high-sided vehicles almost 100 times between September and January and closed to all vehicles 14 times.

    In the previous two years, the bridge was only closed once because of the weather.

    07:57: Murphy's tuition fees pledge

    Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy will today promise that his party will keep universities free of tuition fees - should they form the next government at Holyrood.

    Jim Murphy

    Mr Murphy will confirm the party's policy when he meets students in Glasgow.

    The MP will also announce a funding package "to ensure Scottish universities are properly supported alongside Labour's plan to reduce tuition fees in England".

    The SNP have accused Mr Murphy of "shameless hypocrisy" after he previously voted to impose tuition fees at Westminster.

    07:51: Taxi drivers - 'you talking to me?'

    Taxi drivers in Dumfries and Galloway could get help with their English language skills as part of new proposals to improve the service.

    It is one of a range of measures being considered by the local licensing panel.

    Drivers could get English language help as part of proposals to improve the service

    Stricter medical standards, a dress code, customer care training and CCTV in vehicles could also be brought in.

    A report to the licensing panel is seeking agreement on whether or not to take the proposals forward.

    07:42: Read all about it

    The Daily Record says "welfare axeman" Iain Duncan Smith has launched a new bid to hammer the poor.

    The Herald leads with the UK's privacy watchdog warning that plans to create a "super ID database" may lead to the creation of a national identity number for every Scot by default.

    Tuesday's newspapers

    Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a £70m fund to help families on low and moderate incomes in Scotland buy their first homes, writes The Scotsman.

    Celtic defender Emilio Izaguirre is locked in a £240,000 legal fight over a "dodgy" property deal, according to the Scottish Sun.

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    07:35: Goram: 'King is the man' Kenny Macintyre BBC Scotland

    Former Rangers favourite Andy Goram believes Dave King is the right man to bring the good times back to Ibrox.

    Former Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram

    King, a Glaswegian now based in South Africa, aims to seize control at Rangers following Friday's extraordinary general meeting, which he called to oust the current board.

    "It's a massive thing for the fans to get King in," said Goram.

    "He's the man that the fans want. He's put his money in before, he's a Rangers man and he's a businessman."

    07:28: Human trafficking bill

    MSPs are to begin taking evidence on new legislation to tackle human trafficking in Scotland.

    In 2013 there were 55 human trafficking victims identified in Scotland

    The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill aims to strengthen the law.

    It will introduce a new single offence and increase the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.

    Holyrood's justice committee will hear from Barnardo's Scotland, the Scottish Refugee Council and Victim Support Scotland.

    @BBCScotWeather 'Snow and ice'

    Met Office yellow warnings issued for snow and ice. Wintry showers continue - here's the latest radar picture.

    Snow and ice warning
    @BBCHighlands Inverness under snow

    Overnight snow blankets Inverness this morning...

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    Sumburgh airport

    The aircraft was struck by lightning and went into a steep dive.

    During the incident last December, the pilots initially struggled to control the plane due to a misunderstanding involving the autopilot system.

    Control was eventually regained and the plane diverted to Aberdeen. There were no injuries.

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    07:12: Inequality speech

    Tackling inequality would generate £1,600 more per head of population, according to the Scottish government.

    Nicola Sturgeon

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    Ms Sturgeon will argue that policies which are fair and equal will lead to greater prosperity.

    The UK government insists its austerity policies have led to record employment levels in Scotland.

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    07:06: Stabbing near school

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    Holyrood Secondary

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    Police Scotland said a 15-year-old boy had been arrested.

    @BBCScotWeather 'More wintry' showers' BBC Scotland Weather Latest

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    07:02: Tributes to Scotland legend

    Tributes have been paid to Scotland legend Dave Mackay who has died, aged 80.

    The Edinburgh-born midfielder won 10 major honours as a player in British and European football, starring for Hearts, Tottenham and Derby County.

    The late Scotland and Hearts midfielder Dave Mackay

    He also won 22 caps for his country and was named 'Footballer of the Year' in both Scotland and England.

    Hearts described Mackay as "a fearless defender regarded as the club's greatest-ever player, Dave won the league title, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup (twice) with Hearts before going on to star for Tottenham Hotspur and Derby County".

    The Edinburgh club also quoted the late midfielder as saying: "For as long as I can remember, all I wanted in my life, nothing else, was to play for Hearts, which is my dream team. And to play for Scotland - I had no ambition for anything else. Always Hearts."

    07:00: Good morning Graham Fraser BBC Scotland

    Rise and shine! Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Scotland Live. We will bring you all the latest news and sport throughout the day, with a little weather and travel mixed in.

    You can get involved with the big stories by emailing us your opinions at newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk



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