John Swinney, the Scottish Finance Minister, unveiled the SNP’s updated economic strategy with promise to create thousands of jobs in the renewable energy industry and increase exports by 50%. But the document made no mention of key targets set out in the original version, published four years ago, they were missed or shown to be fundamentally flawed.
A promise in the 2007 strategy to raise the incomes of poorer Scots by replacing council tax with local income tax has disappeared after The Daily Telegraph revealed that the levy would cost 50% more than Mr Salmond claimed.
Large tracts of the original blueprint for growth focused on emulating the ‘lessons and approaches’ of nations in a so-called ‘arc of prosperity’. However, all references tp this phrase have also been struck out after the economies of two of the countries – Ireland and Iceland – collapsed during the recession. There is also only one oblique reference to the main target in the 2007 document, to increase Scotland’s economic growth rate until it caught up with the UK’s. Ironically, the new version states that both economies have shrunk by an average of 0.2% since the SNP took over power in 2007.
In the latest quarter, however, the UK’s economy was growing five times more quickly. There is also no mention of another 2007 target, to increase the growth rate to the same level as other small independent nations by 2017.
Unveiling the strategy, Mr Swinney made no mention of the old targets but said: ‘We have established a new strategic priority – transition to a low carbon economy’
He repeated the claim that ‘green’ industries could support 130,000 Scottish jobs within a decade and said the new strategy focused on areas where there is ‘considerable growth potential for Scotland’.
But Gavin Brown, the Scottish Tory finance spokesman, said: ‘They’ve air brushed out a number of their previous promises and targets. If something makes uncomfortable reading for this government, they pretend it didn’t exist. The arc of prosperity has just become the arc of absurdity.’
He said the new version was a ‘bit of a wish list’. It also outlines plans for four new enterprise areas that will aim to attract investment and jobs, particularly those relegated to renewable energy.
A digital fund is to be established to roll out fast broadband across Scotland and £9billion of help is to be provided for Scottish firms to win public sector contracts.
Richard Baker, the Scottish Labour finance spokesman, said the updated version contained no details on how the new aims would be achieved or any interim targets.
Meanwhile, a think tank has called for any referendum on independence to have a third option of giving Holyrood extensive tax-raising powers without having to leave the union.
Reform Scotland said its concept for ‘devolution plus’ would make MSPs responsible for raising all the money it spends. It said MSPs currently control 60% of public spending but are responsible for less than 7% of funding.