Economics of Independence ScotRef Westminster Mismanagement

Gordon Brown event makes the case for industrial independence

Written by Michael Gray

_73674073_offshorewindapA paper launched today with Gordon Brown in Kirkcaldy criticises Westminster for blocking opportunities for industry and jobs in Scotland.

The Industrial Communities Alliance say that Westminster’s priorities “are too often to spend money in and around London” with “Few of the really big infrastructure projects that are underway or planned [in Scotland].”

The report also describes the UK Treasury as an “obstacle” to reform of Scotland’s enterprise zones.

This coincides with the recent announcement by the Scottish Government that 4,600 jobs will be created in the construction of the world’s third largest wind farm in the Outer Moray Firth. The project, which is worth up to £2.5 billion to the Scottish economy, forms part of the renewable energy reindustrialisation in Scotland.

However, many of the key powers over industry, investment, enterprise and finance remain at a Westminster level. It was the misuse of these powers that was criticised in Kirkcaldy today.

The extract in the document, relating to investment in infrastructure, read:

“Few of the really big infrastructure projects that are currently underway or planned across the UK are located in Scotland. The Westminster government’s priorities are too often to spend money in and around London.

Even the proposed high-speed rail link out of London would not reach the North of England for at least 20 years and would be of scant value to Scotland, more than 100 miles beyond the end of the line.”

An industrial policy for Scotland

Business for Scotland believes that an independent Scotland which focuses its wealth on investment in Scotland can develop a stronger industrial policy.

This process will include diversifying Scotland’s manufacturing sector to create new strengths. These can include new technology areas, special skills in the energy sector, chemical industries, computing, life sciences, and renewable technology.

While Westminster has accepted industrial decline, other European nations targeted special industries and developed competitive advantages.

manufacturing

The paper released today proposes that there is a renewed push at both a public and private sector level to develop projects on energy, the low carbon economy (including renewables), strategic transport networks, local road and rail links and super fast broadband.

The benefits of this approach can provide high skill, well paid jobs in communities that have lost out during 30 years of uneven growth within the UK. Old industrial communities have lost the mass employment that was previous found in areas such as coal, steel, shipbuilding, textiles and engineering.

The 21st century requires a different industrial model. However, supporting manufacturing in an independent Scotland would bring many benefits, especially to Scotland’s financial position.

As the Industrial Communities Alliance state: “Rebuilding the economy of Scotland’s industrial communities has the potential to slash millions from spending on welfare.”

Conclusion

The key conclusion to draw on industrial policy is the one made by Gordon Brown in The Red Paper on Scotland in 1975.

Those with ambition for Scotland cannot “give unconditional support to maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom – and all that that entails – without any guarantee of radical social change”.

On the basis of the report released today, manufacturers in Scotland and industrial communities would benefit from an industrial policy constructed by an independent Scotland.

Join Business for Scotland – Sign our business declaration or follow us on twitter

Further reading:

Darling’s HS2 blunder to cost Aberdeen and Dundee £316m a year

About the author

Michael Gray

Michael is Head of Research with Business for Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Glasgow, he has carried out a series of interviews with academics, politicians and the public in Denmark, Iceland and Ireland. Michael's on twitter @GrayInGlasgow.

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