The plan published on Tuesday rests in large part on policies already announced by the governing Scottish National party, which argues that giving Edinburgh greater control over the economy would accelerate long-term growth.
“Independence is not a magic wand but . . . an independent Scotland could tailor economic policy to put job creation first and deliver a long-term employment boost,” said John Swinney, Scotland’s finance secretary. “With the right policies in place we could achieve full employment.”
Most economists see “full employment” as the rate of unemployment that is consistent with stable inflation.
Pro-union campaigners say a Yes vote would threaten jobs by causing uncertainty and creating barriers for exports to the remaining UK.
“The UK domestic market is good for Scottish business, it’s good for Scottish jobs, and it’s good for Scotland and all of us who live here,” wrote entrepreneur and No supporter John Boyle in the Scotsman newspaper on Tuesday. “Separation would put that at risk.”
A Treasury analysis on Wednesday will say one in 10 jobs in Scotland are linked to trade with the rest of the UK and argues a border could “undermine jobs on both sides”.
The Scottish government plan includes some specific policies, such as a transformation of state-provided childcare and a more welcoming immigration policy to make it easier for foreign students to remain after graduation.
It also includes the establishment of a Scottish Business Development Bank and efforts to persuade companies to establish Scottish headquarters through measures such as a cut in corporation tax.
Other items are more aspirational such as “reindustrialising” the country and “using employment policy to bring together employers and unions . . . in place of the UK government’s confrontational approach”.
John Philpott, a labour market economist at The Jobs Economist, a consultancy, said the proposals seemed like “general aspirational stuff you get from all political parties before general elections”.
“There’s nothing wrong with it as it stands but as a ‘full employment’ policy it begs questions about employment regulation and welfare reform . . . because they’re probably the two key factors that would be central to a robust full employment policy.”
Some approaches could require that an independent Scotland defy predictions of considerable fiscal pressures, including a proposal to establish a minimum level of government spending on infrastructure and transport.
Such ideas will also fuel concerns among some business people that independence would lead to greater levels of state involvement in the economy.
Angus Armstrong, director of macroeconomic research at the UK’s National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said the proposals looked as if they would cost Scotland money.
“If this is not fiscally neutral – which there’s nothing in here to suggest it is – without a clear indication of how this could lead to significantly better productivity growth to pay for itself, larger fiscal deficits would lead to larger external deficits, which are much harder to maintain with a fixed exchange rate,” he said.
“There’s this rather bizarre view that you can do what you want on the fiscal side and not worry too much on the currency side.”
The jobs plan reflects the SNP’s efforts to persuade voters that the economy is successful enough to make independence work and that it would be even more prosperous outside the UK.
“Scotland’s economic activity rate has risen to a new record, a sign of people moving into the labour market for work,” it says. “However, many other comparable independent countries perform better, not only economically, but also across a broad range of indicators including equality and wellbeing.”
The No campaign has been cheered by the annual Scottish Social Attitudes Survey that suggests voters have been growing more sceptical about the benefits of leaving the UK when it comes to the economy, financial stability and personal finances.
Better Together stops taking donations
The cross-party campaign against Scottish independence has stopped asking for donations, saying a surge of contributions since last week’s televised debate between its leader and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has left it with plenty of cash, writes Mure Dickie.
Staff said the Better Together campaign had already been getting close to its fundraising target even before it received thousands of small donations following the strong performance from its leader Alistair Darling in the much-watched debate.
Under strict campaign spending rules, Better Together cannot spend more than £1.5m on campaigning in the final weeks. It also now has enough money to cover pay for its roughly 70 staff through the September 18 referendum.
Some supporters for a No vote had expressed concern last year that Better Together was short of funds, but worries were eased in the six months to June by a flood of donations from author JK Rowling, billionaire bankers, property companies and Conservative party supporters.
Rob Shorthouse, Better Together’s director of communications, declined to give details of how much had been given since the debate, but that thousands of people had sent donations, mostly of about £10 to £20.
The pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign, which has heavily relied on funding from EuroMillions couple Chris and Colin Weir, is still accepting donations.
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