With only a few short weeks to go before the referendum which might see Scotland ripped from the heart of the United Kingdom and left to flounder on the tempestuous ocean of uncertainty, confidence in the ‘yes’ camp seems to be approaching a record low.
My evidence for this? The increasing desperation of the statements coming from Scottish Government Ministers!
In reaction to their own inability to answer a few simple questions like, “What currency might we be using in your independent Scotland?,” we now see project hysteria move into overdrive.
First we were told that, if we reject separation, our NHS will be privatised. Then we hear that if we stay with the United Kingdom, free education will no longer be available to our young people. In fact, both these responsibilities were devolved in 1999 and are run by the Nationalists already using the healthy funding stream guaranteed to them through the Barnett formula which guarantees the proportion of UK Government spending which will come to Scotland.
Then however, they tell us that, if we reject separation, the Barnett formula will be abolished. They conveniently forget that, the only people in this debate who are proposing the end of the Barnett formula are the Nationalists. If Scotland becomes a separate country, the proportion of UK Government spending which comes to Scotland will be ZERO.
Then they tell us that the welfare system is under threat, pointing out some of the difficulties associated with the Welfare reform programme while forgetting all the positives which are there for all to see.
The proportion of workless households is the lowest ever recorded. The number and proportion of children in those households is at a record low. The number of children in households where no one has ever worked is at its lowest level for some 15 years. The inactivity rate, at 21.7 per cent, has never been lower, reflected in falling numbers claiming inactive benefits. Employment is up in every region with the increase in Scotland second only to the North East of England over the last year.
Over the last year, three quarters of the surge in employment has been made up of UK nationals. Since the election, three quarters of the rise in employment are people working full time. The number of 16-24 year olds not in employment, education or training is at its lowest level for over eight years, while the number of 16 and 17 year olds in that category is the lowest since comparable records began.
The truth is that our economy can never fully recover unless families on benefits are able to return to work. Ensuring that people who were previously dependent on welfare play a full and productive part will help Britain to compete across the world. This is about matching economic recovery with social recovery.
The driving force of the economic plan is the quality of the people who make it happen, the British people, for no plan can work unless their wellbeing is at the heart of it. However, none of this is deliverable if we don’t deal with the British domestic problem. Our economy can never be where it should, holding its own in this tough world marketplace, unless British families play a full productive part in that plan.
The global labour market is growing, with over half a billion people joining the global workforce since the year 2000. The rest of the world is churning out brilliant scientists, software engineers and entrepreneurs on a scale unimaginable even a decade ago.
Productivity in emerging markets has allowed rapid growth, in China by double digits, and in our nearest competitors productivity is over 20 per cent higher than here in the UK. With the internet opening up business opportunities at the touch of a button, and transport links getting faster and more accessible, the world is shrinking and at the same time getting more and more competitive.
In my life time, and under successive governments, whole sections of society had been stuck on the sidelines year after year after year, even in the so-called good times. Immigration into the UK, and especially in places like the North East of Scotland, has been a supply and demand issue. Businesses needed workers and because of the way our benefit system was constructed, too few of the economically inactive were willing, or able, to come here and take up the jobs on offer.
Yet here in Scotland we are told that none of these things are important. We are told that Scotland is different. We are told that what we must do is resist change, increase benefits and push up taxation to pay for it all. The Nationalist message is, “Stop the world, we want to get off.”