Scotland politics

Scottish referendum: Alex Salmond says Scotland can afford independence

Media captionAlex Salmond: "We have to understand the variety of economic strengths and right policy mix to develop these industries and sectors further."

Scotland can "more than afford' to be a successful independent country, its first minister has said.

Alex Salmond was speaking as he launched a paper outlining the nation's key economic strengths.

He said the document offered a consolidated picture of the country's strong financial foundations, diverse economy, ingenuity and natural resources.

Scotland's electorate will vote in a referendum on independence next year.

Both the Scottish and UK governments have been publishing documents that illustrate their cases ahead of the vote, which will be held on 18 September, 2014.

The latest Scottish government paper, entitled Scotland's Economy: the case for independence, was launched by Mr Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Alexander Dennis bus manufacturing plant in Falkirk.

It said that rising inequality under Westminster and consistent economic mismanagement by successive UK governments was costing jobs and depressing growth.

The paper focused on Scotland's potential for growth as an independent nation, where the Scottish government would have key economic decision-making powers.

Mr Salmond said Scotland had generated more tax per head than the rest of the UK for every one of the past 30 years.

He also highlighted Scotland's strength in industries other than oil and banking, which have been the focus of much of the debate ahead of the referendum.

Mr Salmond said they included;

  • the country's food and drink industry, which has seen rising exports and an annual turnover of more than £12bn
  • creative industries with an annual turnover of £4.8bn
  • and life sciences, which employ more than 30,000 people.

The first minister said: "This document sets out the enormous attributes and key strengths of the Scottish economy across a diverse range of sectors. We have a vast array of human, financial and natural resources, which many other countries do not enjoy.

"Scotland has a strong onshore economy and vast offshore potential, as well as a highly educated workforce and world class technology and research.

"But despite all of these inherent economic strengths, Scotland's long-term economic growth has lagged behind that of comparable European nations, many of which do not have the natural advantages we do.

"The explanation for that rests in the fact that Scotland's economic strength is not yet in Scotland's hands."

Mr Salmond said the powers that come with being an independent country were needed to boost Scotland's competitive position, support greater innovation and investment, become more internationally-focused instead of threatening to leave the EU and to become a wealthier, fairer country.

He said the Westminster system of government was holding Scotland back in six areas, including:

  • The decision of the last two Westminster governments to cut capital spending which would have supported an additional 19,000 jobs in Scotland
  • The UK government's failure to establish an oil fund for future generations, similar to the Norwegian fund now worth an estimated £450bn
  • The decision by the UK government to engage in a boom in credit and debt expansion
  • Allowing income inequality to grow dramatically in the UK
  • The decision to concentrate economic activity in London
  • And the decision to pursue austerity rather than focus on growing the economy.

However, the head of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, said that when asked what independence would mean for them, the corporate affairs director for Alexander Dennis said it would be "ridiculous" to speculate.

Mr Darling said: "Yesterday the nationalists once again accused us of scaremongering for saying that there was no detail on what separation would mean for the financial and banking sector.

"Today the company that hosted the launch of their flimsy economic plan said the exact same thing.

"This is a total humiliation for Salmond and Sturgeon. They can't answer the most basic questions on banking or whether we will be able to use the pound. Their case fell apart within minutes of launching it."

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