CLARE’S COLUMN IN THE RUTHERGLEN REFORMER

“The Sustainable Growth Commission”. It is a phrase that has been the subject of heated debates and intense scrutiny over the last two weeks, but what exactly is it and what does it mean?

Two years ago, the leader of the SNP and First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announced the establishment of a Growth Commission which would be tasked to look into the issues facing Scotland’s economy, and see how we can build upon it.

Scotland is already an asset rich country and has many advantages in natural resources, business, innovation, and our workforce. We are an energy powerhouse, we have world-leading universities, and our innovative companies export across the world. Yet, our economy is not as strong as it should be and we are lagging behind other countries.

Undertaken by former MSP Andrew Wilson, the Sustainable Growth Commission report is therefore an opportunity to begin a fresh debate in Scotland and focus on how we can seize the opportunities presented to us and achieve our full potential.

After years of Tory austerity, the UK is now amongst the most unequal countries in the developed world and earnings are still below pre-recession levels. With the UK’s forthcoming withdrawal from the EU, the single market and the customs union, then the future for Scotland and our economy has never looked more bleak.

Within the report, no less than 50 recommendations are made on a range of fiscal subjects to grow our economy centred on our population, our participation and our productivity. One such recommendation is the explicit rejection of the austerity model pursued by the Tory Government in recent years. If the spending proposals laid out within the Growth Commission had been applied over the past 10 years, the £2.6 billion real-terms cut that has been imposed on the budget of the Scottish Government by the Tories at Westminster would have been completely wiped out.

Austerity is a political choice by the Tories and it is not one we should continue to accept.

This report shows that although Scotland is a wealthy country with huge resources, other nations of similar size and fewer resources do better. The Growth Commission sets out how the powers of independence can enable us to make our economy even more successful so that we can match the success of other small countries. Powers to grow our population, powers to close the gender pay gap and powers to tailor our economic policies to Scotland’s needs.

What the report doesn’t do is shy away from Scotland’s challenges. Instead, it looks at how we can address these challenges positively and in line with our core values as a nation. It is also not about the ‘when’ of Independence, but rather the ‘why’, and will restart the debate on Scotland’s future.

Andrew Wilson’s Sustainable Growth Commission report has been described as being a first draft of the future for Scotland. It’s now up to the rest of us to pick it up, run with it, debate and refine it, in order to shape our future as a nation.

ENDS

 

Date published: 1st June 2018

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