Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish Government’s new economic strategy – warning it is “integral and essential” to her plans to break Scotland away from the United Kingdom.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes unveiled a 10-year economic vision that she said would be a “radical and bold” approach to supporting businesses, growing the economy and reducing poverty.
Following the launch of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation in Dundee on Tuesday, the proposals received a mixed response.
Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) general secretary Roz Foyer said it was merely “paying lip service” to creating a wellbeing economy.
Ms Foyer said: “The National Strategy for Economic Transformation has a sprinkling of good ideas and we have successfully argued for some strong lines on the importance of fair work, decent pay and the role of trade unions, but overall it is a missed opportunity to address the challenges before us and make real, transformational change.”
Businessman Sir Tom Hunter said the strategy needs to be more business-led and improve productivity in the public sector.
However, other groups such as the Federation of Small Businesses and the Scottish Retail Consortium welcomed the new strategy, praising the clarity and ambition it would provide.
Discussing the response to the strategy, Ms Sturgeon said: “It’s a fact of life and a healthy part of a democracy that people will criticise Government strategies.
“We’re focused on delivering this strategy. I think it’s the right one. It’s got the right level of ambition but, more importantly, it’s got the right focus on delivery.
“The STUC were part of the team that put the strategy together and we’ll work with them, we’ll work with businesses to deliver it.”
“I know Kate Forbes is absolutely focused on ensuring that we realise the potential of Scotland in the decades to come and the strategy puts in place the right building blocks for that.
“I would appeal to everybody across the trade union movement and the business community for all of us to come together right now and focus on delivering the ambition that Kate Forbes set out in the strategy yesterday.”
Asked how the long-term strategy fits with her ambition to leave the UK after an independence referendum, Ms Sturgeon said: “It’s integral and essential.
“Independence doesn’t sit apart from the ambition to make Scotland a prosperous country economically and a fairer country socially – it’s part and parcel of that.
“The powers of independence mean that we can do more to deliver on those ambitions.
“This is not something that is separate, it’s all part and parcel of us wanting Scotland to be as successful as it can be and thinking about how we best equip ourselves to deliver on that ambition.”
On Wednesday, the Finance Secretary answered questions on the strategy from MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.
She said she appreciated the input the STUC had in the process and a commitment to promoting fair work was part of the strategy.
Ms Forbes also said an action plan would be published, along with metrics to measure progress.
She said: “The action plan will be published to ensure that we have a means of delivery that is effective and we will be ensuring that there are metrics alongside that.”