As September 18 draws nearer, those who care most about Scotland’s future - the people and business leaders who live and work here - are waking up to the opportunities that independence will bring.
Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world – richer by head than France, the UK and Japan – and is more than capable of being an economically-successful independent country. But despite our wealth and vast resources nearly everyone in Scotland will know someone, be it a friend or relative, who has had to leave to get a job or to further their career.
With full control over economic powers, an independent Scotland would have the opportunity to tailor economic policy to our needs, which means a jobs policy that puts the interests of Scotland first. A Yes vote will guarantee the powers that Scotland’s companies and entrepreneurs need to create jobs and opportunities for future generations of Scots. Independence is not a magic wand but with a diverse economy, huge natural resources and a highly-educated workforce we have firm foundations on which to build a more prosperous country and fairer society.
Earlier this week I highlighted six key job-creating powers that are guaranteed in the event of a Yes vote on September 18. These are control over business tax, finances, air passenger duty, employment policy, trade policy and immigration policy. These areas are vitally important in ensuring that Scotland continues to grow as a successful nation.
In an independent Scotland the Scottish Government and Parliament would have control over our own business tax system which will give companies an incentive to grow and take on more staff. The government of an independent Scotland will be able to create a more supportive, competitive and dynamic business environment which will in turn encourage economic growth and help to create more jobs. Cutting corporation tax by up to three per cent can reverse the loss of corporate headquarters from Scotland and create 27,000 jobs. Research and development incentives in an independent Scotland will boost innovation and even a one per cent increase in productivity could create 21,000 jobs in the long-term.
Recently, the Yes campaign received the backing of 200 leading businessmen and women in Scotland who signed a letter pledging their support for independence. These signatures represent the real job creators in Scotland who are interested in creating a more prosperous and fair country. People’s jobs are at the heart of this referendum campaign as people want to know that Scotland will get the powers that will attract investment and create employment opportunities.
Independence will put control over Scotland’s finances firmly in Scotland’s hands; allowing us protection from Westminster’s cute to capital spending and invest more in infrastructure. Expanding childcare will allow more parents to work and will create jobs directly in the childcare sector. With independence, the extra taxes generated will stay in Scotland which will help to fund the policy.
Scotland’s tourism industry is worth £9 billion every year and Scotland is a very attractive destination for travellers all over the world. Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is currently set by Westminster, would transfer to the Scottish Parliament in an independent Scotland. This would allow air passenger duty to be set at a level that suits Scotland or have it abolished entirely. It is estimated that APD will cost Scotland more than £200 million a year in lost tourism spend alone by 2016. As an early priority for action following independence, the current Scottish Government proposes a 50 per cent reduction in APD, with a view to eventual abolition of the tax when public finances allow.
The people who live and work in Scotland are at the heart of our campaign for independence. But only a Yes vote will ensure that the power to shape and adapt employment policy is transferred to the Scottish Parliament. This will ensure that we can control skills and employment initiatives and make them work harder for Scotland. And a 50 per cent increase in exports could mean an extra 100,000 jobs for Scotland.
A Yes vote in two weeks’ time is our one opportunity to ensure that the priorities of Scotland are at the heart of government policy – rather than being an afterthought at Westminster – and we should grab it with both hands.