Today I made the following speech on Scotland’s finances; outlining the real choice between a progressive Scottish Labour vision versus a closed minded, unequal SNP future. It is now clear that we are stronger together, united, and less resilient and equal apart:
I do not disagree with John Swinney’s view that the recovery and growth have been slow in the UK in comparison with many other European countries, but I suggest that the answer is not to ditch our comrades, friends and family in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but to ditch the Tories in 2015 and to put in a Labour Government.
I turn to the white paper and the currency. We now know that the UK Government has made it clear that, in its view, a currency union will not happen in the event of independence. That position is taken by other political parties at UK level, where there is agreement that it would not be in the interest of the rest of the UK to accept a currency union with a new Scottish state.
I do not take too kindly to a former public schoolboy coming up to Scotland to tell us that we will not be able to use the pound, but the fact is that all the evidence suggests that it would not be in the UK’s interest to enter into a currency union with a newly independent Scotland. More important, if we take the decision to become an independent state, I do not believe that it will be in the interest of Scotland to enter into a currency union with the remainder of the UK. I would suggest that it offers the worst of all worlds: we would keep the pound but would have no say over it or over interest rates, money supply, the banks, employment targets or crisis measures. If we want to keep the pound, we should stay in the UK. That will ensure that we have direct representation at Westminster, which makes the laws on the economy, and direct representation in a Government that supervises and sets the targets for the Bank of England.
Economic union and common trading and commercial relationships remain essential. Ironically, even those who want a separate state now favour the retention of an economic union with the UK that involves shared administration of monetary policy, interest rates, inflation targets, money supply, crisis measures and macroeconomic stability. The difference between the parties is that the SNP wants UK control without Scottish representation, whereas the Scottish Labour Party wants to ensure that, if such matters are the responsibility of the UK Administration, Scots will have a say in the decisions that are made.
I also want to focus on what I believe is the unfairness of the SNP Government’s proposals and the greater inequality that will result for Scotland if we form a separate state as proposed by the SNP. One policy is a 3p cut in corporation tax for Scotland’s wealthiest companies. That is the equivalent of £125 a household lost from the public purse and public services and handed to the most profitable companies in the corporate sector. That is just one example of SNP unfairness versus Labour’s fairness. We will not put money into the hands of big business while cutting budgets for schools and colleges and cutting support and skills to help people to get into jobs.
The SNP policy would take Scotland on a race to the bottom. We have to wonder what would be next. The issue is not just the handouts to big businesses. We know that the SNP Government will not support Labour’s proposal for the transfer of £286 million to hard-pressed families through an energy price freeze. Ironically, those same energy companies will have a double boost under the SNP proposals, as they will also be the biggest beneficiaries of the corporation tax handout that is being proposed as part of the drive to create a separate Scottish state.
Our economic priorities should be to address the big challenges that our country faces. Some 21 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds are unemployed, and college admissions have fallen by 36 per cent since 2007. It is not tax handouts to big businesses that the economy needs; it needs a national skills strategy, a national jobs strategy, and measures to stop low pay. We must have the courage to say that we will insist on a living wage for all public service contracts that are issued in Scotland and the vision to say that we will transform our education system to ensure that no child is left to fail. I do not believe and cannot accept that any child was born to fail.
In conclusion, what is glaringly obvious about the economics of the white paper is that they will promote inequality and do very little to address the big issues that Scotland and its people face as we move forward.