John Swinney: Let’s escape bad Westminster choices

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The decisions in this Westminster Budget show precisely why we need the powers of independence to meet Scotland’s needs.

Scotland can more than afford to be independent. Over the last five years our national finances have been stronger than the UK’s as a whole, even when you take into account our share of UK debt.

The Chancellor’s Budget statement confirmed that far from being out of the woods, Westminster plans a further £37 billion of cuts across the UK that would be made even worse if Scotland continues to stay as part of the UK and Westminster takes the knife to the Barnett formula.

In each of the last 33 years Scotland has paid more in tax per head than the UK and in the last five years Scotland would be £1600 per head better off than the UK – money that could have been invested in the economy, in public services and reducing debts.

Despite the Chancellor’s pledge that the economy is recovering, people in Scotland will struggle to believe this when incomes remain low and spending continues to be squeezed.

The £63 million added to the Scottish budget yesterday is small beer compared with the significant cuts Scotland has faced since 2010.

We have shown the progress that can be made in Scotland with the few powers we currently have.

Figures published yesterday revealed that we are continuing to outperform the UK across all headline labour market indicators, with a lower unemployment rate, higher employment rate and lower economic inactivity rate, while reports from the Bank of Scotland and Federation of Small Businesses make clear there is an increasing economic confidence among Scottish businesses.

This growth in Scotland’s economy is testament to the hard work of firms across Scotland and the policies of the Scottish Government. News this week that bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) has signed a £100m deal with National Express to produce 600 vehicles over the next five years is a clear example of this confidence in Scotland’s economic outlook.

Our exciting new renewables industry is also going from strength to strength and with the world’s third largest offshore wind farm set to be built in Moray, up to 326 wind turbines will create 4600 jobs during construction and up to 580 once in operation.

We have invested £500m into the M8, M73 and M74 improvements and already earmarked future investment of around £8bn between 2014 and 2016, for similar projects.

Capital investment is key to delivering a faster recovery in Scotland, but with independence we can do so much more. In an independent Scotland we will take a different approach to Westminster’s cuts and instead boost jobs, support investment and tackle the long-term challenges facing Scotland’s economy.

Decisions on taxation, spending and job creation need to be in the hands of the people of Scotland, not Westminster politicians, so we can build on our success and escape from the poor decisions of Westminster governments we didn’t elect.

• John Swinney is an SNP MSP and the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth