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by Louise Wilson
08 January 2024
UK is ‘poor man of north-west Europe’, says Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf delivered the first of a series of economy-themed speeches in Glasgow | Alamy

UK is ‘poor man of north-west Europe’, says Humza Yousaf

The UK is the “poor man of north-west Europe” but Scotland could “chart a different, better course” with independence, the first minister has said.

Making a major speech on the economy to start the new year, Humza Yousaf said “damaging economic trends” have been “hard-wired” into the UK and Scotland.

He said a change of UK government after the general election would do little to improve this, accusing Keir Starmer of failing a present a “real economic alternative”.

The speech, which is the first in a series on the economy, also coincided with the publication of the Scottish Government’s latest independence paper for its Building a New Scotland series.

Focused on industrial policy, the paper says an independent Scotland would improve its economy by rejoining the EU, creating a Ministry of Industrial Policy (including a special advisory council), and establishing a fund for major capital investment.

Yousaf said the pot of cash for that investment would come from oil revenues and borrowing.

He said it was “simply unforgiveable” that the current UK government had no commitment to an industrial strategy or streamlined policy.

The first minister added: “For Scotland there is a choice. We can accept our place as part of this low-productivity, high-inequality economic model – or we can decide to chart a different, better course.

“That means taking on the powers we need to achieve the higher, more normal living standards enjoyed by comparable independent countries.

“No one is expecting dramatic overnight change. But with our resources, advantages, key sectors and talents we can start that journey to economic normality.”

Regarding the forthcoming general election, Yousaf said it was clear Keir Starmer “is going to be the next prime minister, bar any catastrophe”.

Urging people to back his party in Scotland – particularly in those seats currently represented by Conservative MPs – Yousaf said he was willing to work with any party to “get rid of a Conservative government”.

He also said he would be willing to work with Labour on areas of agreement, including reversing some policies introduced under austerity, such as the rape clause, or on investment in green technologies.

The Scottish Conservatives said the Scottish Government's economic plans for independence were based on "myths, fantasy economics and the fanciful hope".

Craig Hoy MSP said: "Humza Yousaf is a weak leader in charge of a feuding, scandal-ridden party, which is why he is banging on about the one issue they agree on – breaking up the UK – and ignoring the country at large."

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