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by Louise Wilson
17 May 2024
John Swinney pledges ‘more action, fewer documents’ to boost economic growth

The First Minister was addressing the press and business leaders in Glasgow | Alamy

John Swinney pledges ‘more action, fewer documents’ to boost economic growth

First Minister John Swinney has pledged his government will bring forward “more concrete action and fewer strategy documents” in its bid to grow the economy.

Delivering his first major speech since becoming first minister last week, he said his main mission in government would be to eradicate the “curse” of child poverty.

He said creating a “strong, successful, innovative and dynamic economy” would help achieve that aim.

The Scottish Government has a target to ensure that fewer than 10 per cent of children are living in poverty by 2030. Currently one quarter of Scottish kids are.

The speech also comes after slow economic growth last year, at 0.2 per cent, though economic thinktank the Fraser of Allander Institute projects that to increase to 0.6 per cent for 2024.

The government’s relationship with business in recent years has come under intense pressure, with Swinney’s predecessor Humza Yousaf promising a reset when he took office last year.

Acknowledging those issues, Swinney said with “careful listening and full engagement” with business, the government will have build a “can do attitude” on growth.

He added: “I will demand from my government more concrete actions and fewer strategy documents. A strategic approach is clearly essential, but I want the first question we ask ourselves to be: what can we do, not what can we write down?

“Overarching all of this, I want to renew our sense of hope and optimism about what Scotland is achieving and about the great possibilities of the future. To potential investors, I will go all out to sell Scotland as the great place it is to do business.”

He pledged to improve “policy certainty” to facilitate this, and on tax he said that further hikes would limit Scotland’s ability to “remain an attractive place to invest”.

The first minister took aim at the UK Government’s policies on migration, blaming them for workforce shortages across various sectors.

He said the “very hostile” attitude towards migration was “a folly” and added that UK ministers’ “rhetoric about migration can’t do anything but harm the economy”.

An “honest debate” about migration with the public was necessary to move forward, he added.

The Scottish Conservatives said the first minister had been at the "heart" of government for the last 17 years while economic growth has been “sluggish”.

Economy spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “Scotland’s struggling businesses will be waiting with bated breath to see if these warm words are followed up with positive action, as they heard all the same rhetoric about a reset when Humza Yousaf took office last year.

“Growing our economy will continue to take a backseat as long as John Swinney continues on from his predecessors and pushes his independence obsession at every turn.

“Simply reviewing the SNP’s anti-business policies won’t cut it. He should stop widening the tax gap with the rest of the UK, scrap flawed short-term lets legislation and pass on much-needed rates relief, otherwise his speech will just go down as hot air.”

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