Scotland politics

Sturgeon unveils £100m Scottish economic stimulus plan

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Media captionMs Sturgeon announced the new measures during a visit to the Golden Jubilee Hospital

Nicola Sturgeon has announced £100m of funding to boost Scotland's economy and support businesses in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU.

The Scottish government is to bring forward support for job-creating projects and arrangements to help businesses deal with uncertainty.

Ms Sturgeon also called for the UK government to help boost the economy.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell held talks with business leaders and youth groups about Brexit.

Mr Mundell is holding meetings with representatives from key groups and sectors, such as farming and oil and gas, about the impact of the EU vote which took place in June.

Ms Sturgeon has just returned from Germany, where she held talks about Scotland's place in Europe with the German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth.

During a visit to the Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank, she announced an expansion of the government's existing infrastructure investment plan, along with new arrangements to engage with businesses to shape policy and provide up-to-date information and advice.

Image copyright First Minister / Twitter
Image caption The Golden Jubilee will benefit from £5m of infrastructure funding as part of the new package

An extra £100m will be made available in the current financial year to speed up delivery of health and other infrastructure projects which are currently in the pipeline, including £5m for the Golden Jubilee.

The funding added to the 2016/17 year comes from an underspend from previous budgets.

The Scottish government said details of other projects to benefit from funds will be announced in due course. Work is ongoing to select projects which will return a significant economic benefit and can be delivered this year.

A new dedicated service to liaise with firms affected by the EU referendum is to be set up, alongside a new business network to work alongside the Scotland Office, trade unions and business bodies.

'Act urgently'

Ms Sturgeon said: "As I have made clear since the EU referendum, the Scottish government will pursue all possible options to protect Scotland's relationship with the EU and ensure that our voice is heard.

"However, it is also important to act now to support and stimulate the economy.

"Scotland is and remains an attractive and stable place to do business - however, there is no doubt that the referendum outcome has created deep and widespread uncertainty, with the impact on jobs and investment already being felt.

"The UK government has not yet taken any meaningful action to alleviate uncertainty or to boost confidence, and there are very real concerns that the damage to the economy and to jobs will be severe and long lasting.

"It is against this background that the Scottish government is announcing early action to boost confidence, stimulate economic activity and support business."

Image caption Ms Sturgeon met staff and patients at the hospital

The funding boost was welcomed by business groups and trade unions.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the investment was "a timely boost" and "a great example of the Scottish government using devolved powers to deliver a timely boost to the Scottish economy".

Andy Willox from the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the plans to engage with businesses in particular, and said it was important to "squeeze every drop of value" from the new spending.

'Technical recession'

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trade Unions Congress, said the group "strongly endorses" Ms Sturgeon's approach.

He said: "The Scottish economy, already weak due to the downturn in the oil and gas sector, risks falling into technical recession as a result of Brexit induced uncertainty. In this context it is important that the Scottish government accelerates capital projects where feasible in order to support employment."

The Fraser of Allander Institute, an economic research group based at Strathclyde University, said there were "reasons to be cautious" about the investment, but said that "on balance" it was "a welcome step".

Scottish Labour has also published a Brexit action plan, calling for measures including a Brexit Support Fund for at-risk industries and increases in income tax to fund education.

Economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie welcomed the funding, but said the government could be "much bolder", with the the £100m committed "like a drop in the ocean".

Image copyright Scotland Office / Twitter
Image caption Mr Mundell held a group discussion with members of the Young Scot initiative

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the "modest measures" were welcome, but said the best way to boost Scotland's economy would be to "drop the threat" of a second independence referendum.

He said: "Far from seeking stability since the Brexit vote, Nicola Sturgeon has only exacerbated the uncertainty with her opportunistic talk of separation. This announcement is not a host of new projects - it is simply bringing forward works which were already planned."

The Scottish Greens welcomed the announcement which they said would be a "timely boost to the Scottish economy".

Ross Greer MSP, the Scottish Greens' external affairs spokesperson, said: "In the face of Theresa May's shift away from green energy policies, I'd urge the Scottish government to direct some of this capital to shore up the renewables sector in Scotland.

"It's this industry which can provide stable jobs and reduce energy bills in the long term and should therefore be prioritised ahead of unsustainable projects."

And Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie criticised the fact the £100m was sourced from a previous underspend.

He said: "The SNP are talking about spending yesterday's money and asking us to believe that this is urgent action. This is ludicrous. Smoke and mirrors over funding that has been sat in Scottish government bank accounts since last year will not provide the boost our economy so desperately needs."

'Maximise opportunities'

Meanwhile, the Scottish Secretary met young people involved with the Young Scot initiative, pledging to "take the views of youth organisations to those leading the EU negotiations" following a group discussion.

Mr Mundell also visited Tontine, a business centre in Glasgow linked to the region's City Deal, before a meeting with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to discuss priorities for business following the referendum.

He said a "Team UK approach" was needed for the Brexit negotiations, urging the Scottish government to work together with the UK government to "maximise the opportunities for Scotland as the UK prepares to leave the EU".

Scotland Office minister Andrew Dunlop has also been meeting groups across the country in recent weeks.

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