If the Scottish Government had succeeded in persuading voters to back it in the 2014 referendum then we would this week be ‘celebrating’ our Independence from the rest of the UK under the leadership of our Prime Minister, Alex Salmond.
Thankfully we certainly seem to have dodged a bullet here because if we had just become ‘Independent’ then figures just released show that Scotland has a deficit of 10% of our economic output, that is twice as large as the rest of the UK and higher than any other country in the European Union. If we thought the austerity measures introduced by Italy and Greece were bad, then ours would be so much worse.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon dismisses this view as failing to take account of historic ups and downs of the economic cycle. She maintains that the Scottish economy would be robust enough to deal with this deficit on our own. However, thankfully we are not on our own and we continue to receive 10% more public spending on our services per head of population than in England, thanks to the agreement with the UK government so recently made by John Swinney and the Chancellor.
The immediate economic woes Scotland faces are largely due to the effects of the downturn in world oil prices, something which we here in the North-East are acutely aware. With estimates varying of up to 65,000 jobs lost in the North Sea industry and those servicing it we really are in a jobs crisis. That’s why the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of criticising the Scottish Government for slashing over 150,000 College training places across the country and for burying their heads in the sand over the economic situation facing the country.
The next Scottish Parliament elections take place in a few weeks time. The country faces a simple choice. Will the Scottish people vote once again for a party that wishes, according to Nicola Sturgeon, to lead a renewed campaign over the summer for Independence, with the economic disaster that would entail, or will people choose something different?
The Scottish Liberal Democrats offer people a real change. We want to see the North-East get its fair share of funding from the Scottish government. Grampian Health Board and Aberdeen City Council are woefully underfunded compared to the rest of Scotland. We want to halt the centralisation of power which the nationalists always promote and we want to build a country where everyone has the opportunity to use their skills and talents to the full. What we don’t want is the SNP continuing its drive, whatever the financial cost to ordinary people, to break up the UK. We have an opportunity in May to change direction, we should take it.