What the Five Party Leaders Put Forward Ahead of the Election
Low-tax promises will boost Scotland’s economy. Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
We believe economic growth has to be driven both locally and nationally. At the recent council elections we returned representatives in record numbers, all of whom stood on a detailed manifesto prioritising local growth. And now, as we approach another election – this time for Westminster – boosting the economy is going to be at the forefront of people’s minds.
We believe firmly in a low-tax economy, for firms of all sizes and the workers they employ. That’s why we see cutting corporation tax as key to that, particularly as the UK prepares for a new start after coming out of the European Union. The tax regime has to be right, but so do the skills that our young people possess as they enter the world of work. We want to see greater partnership between education and business, so pupils and students are equipped for the needs of modern workforce. That means more participation in STEM subjects, and making sure workers have the right skill set to deal with changing global practices and trends. And while we have this range of positive ideas for the future of Scotland’s business community, we simply cannot ignore the risks posed. Yes, Brexit raises significant questions, but it also brings opportunities across a range of industries, particularly fishing and agriculture. But the darkest cloud on the horizon is created by the SNP and its complete unwillingness to take the threat of a second independence referendum off the table. The party is already harming Scotland’s economy by making us the highest-taxed part of the UK, along with punishing organisations of all sizes with a range of anti-business measures. As we see healthy economic growth across the rest of the UK, Scotland is just one quarter away from recession.
However, the obsession with separation drives this even further, throwing up trade barriers with the rest of the UK, which is four times more valuable to Scotland’s businesses than the EU. And that’s not to mention a hiking of personal and business taxes to cope with the massive black hole an independent Scotland would have. These are all reasons why businesses north of the border will be best served by a Conservative government in June, with Scotland’s place in the UK as its absolute priority.
Support small businesses – and curb fossil fuels. Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens’ Co-convenor
Small, independent businesses with their roots in the communities they serve are absolutely essential for the strong, resilient local economies we need. Scottish Greens believe we need to create an economic revival and thousands of jobs by focusing on rural and urban small business growth.
Yet in our councils, in the Scottish Government and its agencies, and at Westminster, taxpayers’ money is being used to benefit giant multinationals, and the tax regime allows them to crowd out other businesses without paying back into the common good.
The urgent need to transition Scotland’s economy away from a dependency on fossil fuels is too often seen as a problem or a threat; in reality it can be a huge opportunity for investment in new, high quality and lasting jobs for the future. Businesses that are willing and able to innovate instead of merely defending their status quo will be able to realise these opportunities.
We will continue to push both the UK and Scottish Governments to support this transition in ways which reduce wealth and income inequalities, and prevent the worst effects of climate change.
In this transition, there’s great potential in recognised ‘green’ industries such as reuse and recycling, sustainable food production and green energy, but also in areas like clean chemical sciences, digital and creative industries, and modern efficient construction.
Financial services remain an important part of our economy, but here again domination by a handful of giant businesses fails to meet the investment needs of the real economy.
Greens don’t see economic activity as an end in itself, with success measured by narrow metrics like GDP. We want an inclusive economy that taps everyone’s potential and meets everyone’s needs.
Brexit has further endangered our economy; that much is certain, and the Conservatives’ internal party squabbles have triggered an opportunistic snap election and a power grab to undermine both Parliaments.
Nevertheless, the election is another chance to highlight radical Green proposals to develop small businesses and transform our economy.
Investment banks will unlock potential. Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour Leader
Businesses in Scotland face an unprecedented level of uncertainty. Both at Holyrood and Westminster, ideological nationalism has been prioritised above economic growth.
Theresa May’s pursuit of a hard Brexit – a UK outside of the single market – is a major threat to our economy. Our current unrestricted access to the world’s largest trading block provides firms with extraordinary opportunities. But it also provides us with greater economic clout when competing with emerging powers like China and India.
Theresa May’s vision for a post-Brexit UK addresses none of these issues.
Yet the risks of Brexit are far outweighed by the risks of independence. Under the SNP, Scotland’s economy has stagnated and worryingly, is on the brink of recession. To multiply its economic mismanagement, Nicola Sturgeon has now introduced the prospect of an unwanted and divisive second independence referendum. At a time when businesses need certainty, she has created doubt.
The uncomfortable truth for Nicola Sturgeon is independence would not fix the economic woes created on her watch – it would only compound them. Breaking up the UK would cause turbo-charged austerity in Scotland which would be bad for businesses. The SNP still has no answer to how it would clear Scotland’s £15 billion deficit.
While trade with the EU is important for Scottish firms, trade within the UK is worth four times as much. In contrast to both the Tories and the SNP, Scottish Labour has a pro-business platform and a plan to grow our economy. We would use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the economy. We would use consequential funds to provide £37million of relief for firms facing business rates increases. And we would make education a top priority to ensure people have the skills Scottish businesses need.
A Labour Government would establish a National Investment Bank and Regional Investment Banks across the UK, to help unlock £500 billion of investment and lending, including a £20billion Scottish Investment Bank. This would rebuild industries, grow businesses and renew our country’s infrastructure. That’s the difference a Labour government would make, and a vision for the future which I hope businesses share.
Progressive, Internationalist and open. Willie Rennie, Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats
This election is a chance to change the direction of our country. The best thing we can do for business is to keep our country open and internationalist.
Liberal Democrats are opposed to new barriers to doing business, particularly with our nearest neighbours. Cutting ties with our biggest economic markets makes no sense in terms of trade, jobs, prices or incomes.
The Liberal Democrats are the only party that is pro-UK, pro-EU and progressive.
Meanwhile, official figures show Scotland on the brink of a recession. There have been a string of warnings about the fragility of the economy, business confidence and skills shortages. That is why we need a long-term plan to build a strong economy.
My party has consistently made the case for a transformative investment in education. It has slipped. However, new powers mean we have the chance to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to make Scottish education the best again, help people achieve their potential and enable businesses to find the skills they need. This includes repairing our colleges, where 152,000 places have been lost under the SNP.
As well as investing in people’s talents, business needs government to invest in their wellbeing too. 643,000 days a year are lost to depression alone – just one mental health condition. However, the Scottish Government’s new blueprint for mental health services for the next decade was panned for its lack of ambition and detail. That’s why the long-term plan to support business must also involve serious investment in mental health.
Our manifesto for the General Election sets out in detail the full range of support that we will provide to businesses. While the Tories and nationalists offer propositions that would each harm our economy, we stand with the majority opinion in this country. This election is a chance to give businesses a brighter future.
Crucial to build on our reputation for innovation. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and Leader, SNP
Scotland is already a country that encourages entrepreneurship and is well established as an attractive place to do business and to invest. And as a nation, our reputation for innovation has long been recognised internationally, so it is crucial that we seek to build on that profile.
In Government, the SNP has sought to capitalise on our key economic strengths, and in recent years Scotland has been among the top destinations across the UK, outside of London, for foreign direct investment. Meanwhile, under the SNP, productivity – a key driver of growth – is 9.4 per cent higher than before the recession, while the rest of the UK has seen productivity more or less flatline.
Scotland has one of the most highly educated workforces in Europe and the SNP will continue to support our universities with £1bn investment this year as well as increasing the number of funded Modern Apprenticeships to 30,000. We will also continue to support our successful renewables industry in the face of Westminster cuts, while we have also extended the SNP’s Small Business Bonus Scheme, which has already saved businesses more than £1bn.
The SNP will continue to be a bulwark against the Tories’ reckless plans for an economically disastrous hard Brexit, which threatens 80,000 Scottish jobs over a decade and which many, many businesses across Scotland are dreading.
The election on June 8 is a chance to stand up for Scotland’s business and economic interests in the face of the Tories’ chaotic Brexit negotiations, which pose the biggest threat to our economy in at least a generation.
And it is more important than ever that SNP MPs are elected in large numbers to protect Scotland from the danger posed by an unfettered Conservative government with a potentially increased majority.