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Thursday, September 04, 2008


Alex Salmond's speech to Parliament outlining their legislative programme for the year promised
Our core purpose as a government is to promote higher levels of sustainable economic growth
This is what got him elected. However it is very similar to Jack McConnell's repeated assurance that economic growth was Labour's "first priority". Lets go through the programme & see how much of it is consistent with that promise.

The full list of proposed bills is:

Additional Support for Learning (Amendment) Bill
Arbitration Bill
Budget Bill
Children's Hearings Bill
Scottish Climate Change Bill
Council Tax Abolition Bill
Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill
Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill
Health Bill
Legislative Reform Bill
Legal Profession Bill
Marine Bill
Public Services Reform Bill
Rural Schools Bill
Scottish Parliament and Local Government Elections Bill

Not one of these will have a significant positive effect on the economy. The Climate Change Bill will certainly have a significant negative one. Replacing Council Tax with Income Tax will have a negative effect because Council Tax is relatively close to a Land Value Tax whereas income tax obviously puts the burden of tax on wealth creators. This is a technical point - the more immediate point is that all the confusion, fighting, lobbying, disorganisation, tax evasion etc in the process of bringing it in will certainly have an economically depressing effect.

Incidentally the site organiser seems unconvinced that the economy is the promised priority. In the midst of Alex speech is a link entitled:

View details of the Legislative Programme

In which the first priority is Greenery while making us wealthier is squeezed into a portmanteau "Wealthier & Fairer" section which in turn offers nothing, though mentioning the already passed reduction in business rates (which they wanted to delay but the Conservatives wouldn't let them). It does assure us

"Yet Scotland has the people and assets to create a much wealthier and fairer nation. Our education system is one of the best in the world. Our financial services, life sciences and tourism industries have a global reputation. Our land and seas are renowned for the quality of their produce and stewardship of the high quality natural and built environment attracts visitors and investment. Scotland's natural resources give us the potential to be the green powerhouse of Europe and show global leadership on climate change and use of natural resources. Our culture is exceptionally rich, supporting an international reputation for creative talent, unique heritage and contemporary innovation."

Most of which is true though our education system is, disgracefully, falling behind England's & the stuff about being a leader on climate change has no place in an economic assessment. In any case saying how much potential we have & how well we could be doing is no substitute for actually doing something about it.

When I stood for election I put forward a costed programme for growth. Even if the SNP have blown the money on their irresponsible election promises there are still things they could do. that would get our economy closer to the "Celtic Lion" beating Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" which Mr Salmond promised.

1) Encourage the building of new nuclear, without time wasting & overly bureaucratic regulations. With a future of cheap energy business will grow here. If not it will keep moving to China.

2) Cut building restrictions to allow mass production of housing. If we had houses available at 1/4 the current cost we would see an enormous & continuing boom. In a free market houses would cost 1/4 of what they do now.

3) Stop the £1 billion windmill subsidy & put the money into a 3p income tax cut.

4) Cut the regulations that make the costing of the new Forth Bridge at £3.2 billion, 13 times the inflation adjusted cost of the original. If we could cut tunnels at £3.5-£11 million per km, as the Norwegians have been doing for decades we could produce a Forth Tunnel & a Clyde Tunnel at Dunoon & tunnels to our bigger islands for far less than is proposed for the bridge. If we could get construction prices down to what it costs in the rest of the world we would also get a faster growing economy.

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