Scotland is a nation abundant in natural resources and with a well educated population. But like every country in the world it has suffered a year of restrictions due to Covid and this year will give a fuller picture of what life outside of the world’s largest Free Trade Market, The EU, is like.
In the short term, a recent report by the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde, has shown some cause for optimism.
Recent monthly GDP data for Scotland has revealed that the Scottish economy contracted in January following the start of the winter lockdown. But, this fall has been less pronounced than the one experience during the Spring lockdown last year. Fraser of Allander Institute
It notes the high uptake of Covid vaccination in Scotland and the timeline for a phasing out of restrictions as encouraging news for business. Accommodation, food outlets and the tourism sector have been extremely hard hit but some sectors such as construction have been much more resilient.
In contrast , in the long term, ‘Raising Scotland’s Economic Growth Rate’ published by Oxford Economics and commissioned by The Hunter Foundation, states:
“it is not realistic to think that the current economic policies of either the UK or Scottish governments will produce a transformation of Scotland’s economic performance”
It argues that drastic changes are required if Scotland’s economy is to grow and that it will require:
” an ambitious industrial policy, possibly centred around Scotland’s renewables industry, tapping into its rich tidal, wave and wind resources”
It criticises the new Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) for not being generous enough in its funding.
A Scottish Government, whoever is in power, has a limited Budget which it can use to support our public services and invest in our economy. It is not allowed to borrow, something the UK Government can do unfettered by the constraints of devolution. Every Budget produced by a Scottish Government has to balance and it is an almost impossible task made even more so by the devastating impact of the Covid pandemic and leaving the EU.
When travel opens up once again, Scotland is the destination of choice for millions of visitors. They come for the beauty of our landscape, our history and a culture steeped in creativity. Our farming and fishing sectors produce the finest quality of food with the drinks industry ensuring that its not just Scotland’s water that is there for the drinking.
Later on this month, April, the world’s largest marine turbine Orbital O2 , will arrive in the waters of Orkney. Scotland is a world leader in renewables, the answer to our present and future energy needs. This is a marvellous piece of engineering.
You really have got to wonder why with all this in Scotland’s favour over two thirds of children in poverty live in a household with someone in paid work. And even removing a Covid year, the number of children living in poverty in Scotland is increasing. People have to choose between eating and heating.
What is even more startling is that these figures would be worse if in Scotland we didn’t have financial supports in place to try and reduce the effect of UK legislation like the Bedroom Tax and The Rape Clause.
Whole chunks of the limited Budget a Scottish Government has to work with need to be siphoned off to mitigate the devastating effects of UK Government austerity measures which penalise so many in our society. There’s not much left over for longer term investments. And certainly nowhere near enough if we wish to consign child poverty in Scotland to the history books.
That is why the question about Scotland’s constitutional future is not just important, it is vital.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame