Lib Dem Tavish Scott reveals economic recovery plan

Tavish Scott
Image caption Tavish Scott addressed Lib Dems members at their party conference in Perth

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has outlined his party's plan for economic recovery, ahead of the Holyrood election.

Addressing the Scottish Lib Dem conference, he pledged to create jobs, cut red tape and reform business rates.

Mr Scott also promised to restore excellence in education and fight centralisation, including moves to a Scottish national police force.

He also urged supporters to "fear nothing".

Speaking in Perth, Mr Scott told members of the party faithful to dismiss speculation that the party would face a kicking on election day, following the UK Lib Dems' decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster.

The Lib Dem leader said parties must be prepared to take hard decisions after polling day, adding: "We must live within our means, not promising money we just don't have.

"Scotland deserves better. Scotland deserves honesty."

Mr Scott committed his party to a 30-day action plan for jobs after the May 5 poll, including new development banks to help small companies, helping local firms getting a fairer slice of government contracts, and reforms to regulation.

And he guaranteed rates relief for all businesses whenever the UK government approved a tax hike.

Mr Scott said: "Whatever happens on the 5th of May, Scotland needs action on jobs.

"I ask that the other parties commit to action with us on Scottish jobs.

"Scotland needs the best of what we can all offer - to put party politics before the needs of our people in these times isn't right and we just won't do it."

Mr Scott said education played a vital role in growing the economy, and pledged to cut "bureaucratic hassle" for teachers, giving them more time in classrooms, while increasing the powers of head teachers.

"I want nothing short of excellence in every aspect of Scottish education," he said, adding: "It's time that the future of our children comes first."

'Restore excellence'

Boosting college bursaries was a key Lib Dem policy put into the SNP government's budget, said Mr Scott, but he added that universities must also be supported at a national level.

But he said higher education institutions must deliver more in return, including more scientific research which boosts the economy, and "an internationally respected business school, not in the range we have at the moment".

Despite the actions of the Westminster coalition, Mr Scott has pledged to keep higher education in Scotland free for Scottish students.

Amid an estimated £93m higher education funding gap, the Scottish Lib Dem leader said universal benefits, such as free bus travel for older people, need to be reviewed in order to plug the hole.

He told the conference: "We will be the party of education at this election, and we will deliver for education after May.

"Action on jobs and restoring excellence in Scotland's education."

Mr Scott went on to claim that centralisation of power was "the most worrying trend I've seen in Scottish politics over recent months".

'Fear nothing'

Citing moves towards single national police and fire services, which have won broad political backing but are opposed by the Lib Dems, Mr Scott said: "We will stop highly-paid quango bosses and Holyrood ministers grabbing even more power for themselves.

"I will not stand to see the local dimension demolished - every idea, initiative or spark stripped out of local services - every part of Scotland will be poorer if that happens."

Mr Scott also moved to rally the troops ahead of the election, in a speech which was almost free of attacks on his political opponents and which made no mention of UK Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

He told campaigners: "No matter the commentary, the media chatter and the speculation, just remember this - we know people will vote Liberal Democrat if we give them good reason to do so.

"Fear nothing in this election."

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