Scotland politics

Scotland 'can match top small countries'

Report being handed over Image copyright Nicola Sturgeon Twitter
Image caption Andrew Wilson has handed over his report to Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland can match the best-performing small countries in the world with policies designed to boost the economy, the SNP's growth commission will say.

The report, due out on Friday, has studied the fortunes of a dozen small countries with advanced economies.

It suggests policies which could bring Scotland up to this level both with existing powers and with independence.

Opposition parties said the government should be "focused on public services" instead of constitutional matters.

The growth commission was set up by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in September 2016 as part of a "new conversation" on independence in the wake of the Brexit vote.

She later "reset" her drive for a second referendum after the SNP suffered losses in the 2017 general election, but has now taken delivery of the report.

The commission, headed by economist and former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, has studied a dozen countries ranging from European states like Denmark, Finland and Ireland to some further afield, including Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore.

The 354-page report sets out a dozen "key lessons" to be learned from these countries.

The SNP said these include "focus on innovation", "long-term cross partisan strategy", "migration-friendly" and "export-orientation".

Mr Wilson said small nations "can be amongst the most economically successful counties in the world, with higher standards of living and lower levels of inequality than many larger economies".

He said: "There is nothing intrinsic in any of the best-performing economies that Scotland does not have. To secure an improvement in our performance will take purposeful strategic effort for over a generation.

"We require world-class policy, world-class institutions and cross-partisan effort if we are to achieve our ambition to create a much more successful economy and cohesive and fair society."

Image caption The report came up repeatedly during weekly questions to the first minister

The report dominated the weekly session of questions to the first minister at Holyrood, with opposition parties arguing that ministers should be focused on the day-to-day running of the country rather than constitutional issues.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the government's priority should be education, rather than independence.

She said: "For me the most important issue is making sure our children get a good education. The first minister used claim that that was her priority too - how times have changed.

"It's hard to see how dragging Scotland back down the rabbit hole of a debate on independence is going to improve our schools."

Ms Sturgeon replied that the Conservatives were "paralysed by Brexit", and insisted that her government was focused on improving education.

'Chaos upon chaos'

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard meanwhile said the government should pay more attention to health policies than the NHS.

He said the report "might excite the back benches of the SNP, but it will exasperate millions of people around the country who just want the first minister focused on public services".

He added: "Nicola Sturgeon has to finally realise that the people want her to put the NHS before the SNP."

Ms Sturgeon replied that her government was "investing record sums" in the NHS and employing a record number of staff.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie earlier said the SNP's "whole plan involves piling up chaos upon chaos", saying they would "compound the chaos of Brexit with independence on top".

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