Nicola Sturgeon has attacked the “scale and speed” of government spending cuts, while pledging that the Scottish government will campaign for the UK to stay in the EU.
In her first major speech on the economy since the general election, Scotland’s first minister argued that the proposed cuts would hamper the economic recovery and make reducing the deficit harder.
Addressing business leaders in Edinburgh, Sturgeon insisted: “We will continue to oppose spending reductions of the scale and speed that the UK government has suggested. We believe these will slow economic recovery and make deficit reduction more difficult and that’s something that has been demonstrated already by the impact of the cuts that have been imposed since 2010.”
The SNP leader added: “If the UK government does decide to stick to its current proposals we will argue for ways in which the impact on Scotland can be lessened.”
Speaking ahead of the Queen’s speech later this week, which is expected to set out a bill for an EU referendum, Sturgeon also reiterated her support for continued EU membership. She said: “During the runup to the referendum the Scottish government will of course make a strong and positive case for staying in the European Union.
“We don’t think it is perfect. We think reform is both desirable and necessary but we believe very strongly that Scotland’s interests are best served by being members of the European Union.”
She repeated the Scottish government’s “double lock” proposal, which David Cameron has already dismissed. “We will propose a double majority, meaning that exit from the European Union would only be possible if all four nations of the UK agree to that, something that would ensure Scotland couldn’t be forced out of the European Union against our will.”
Alongside her deputy and finance secretary, John Swinney, Sturgeon was encouraging companies to sign up to the Scottish Business Pledge, a voluntary code for employers to back policies including the living wage and diversity in recruitment.
She also told the audience that the SNP government would continue to push for greater powers for Scotland. “We want to ensure that the recommendations of the Smith commission are met in full. We are also seeking additional responsibilities – beyond the ones which the Smith commission identified. In particular, greater power over business taxes, employment and trade union law, the minimum wage and welfare would enable us to create jobs, grow the economy, and lift people out of poverty.
“These are not powers for their own sake – they are powers to enable us to work more effectively in partnership with business to boost growth, to increase investment, to support employment and to deliver better jobs.”
This article was written by Libby Brooks Scotland reporter, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 26th May 2015 10.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010