Richard Leonard says Scottish economy is '˜weak' and needs '˜radical change'
Leader Richard Leonard accused ministers of “complacency” and said they should be willing to stand up to big business to protect workers.
The independent Scottish Fiscal Commission has said Scotland’s economy is facing “subdued” growth over the next five years, growing at less than 1 per cent a year until 2022.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood today, Mr Leonard said: “No matter how many times ministers say that the fundamentals of our economy are strong, it’s clear that they are not, that they are weak.
“Research and development has grown, but it is far too narrow, with just ten businesses accounting for nearly 40 per cent of all new business research and development.
“Our export base as well is far too narrow with just 15 businesses accounting for 30 per cent of all of our international exports.
“Beyond all the rhetoric and oratory of the First Minister is the loss of real jobs in the real world.”
Mr Leonard also highlighted reports that Amazon delivery drivers are facing “unrealistic targets this Christmas to avoid cruel redundancy in the new year”.
He told Ms Sturgeon: “This is a company that you handed over millions of pounds of taxpayers money to, so you should be laying down the rules.
“What Scotland’s economy needs is real and radical change, a Government with an industrial strategy to stimulate growth and it needs as well a Government that is prepared to stand up to big business.”
In response, the First Minister said the previous Labour administration had given Amazon more taxpayers’ money than her Government.
She said the Fiscal Commission’s forecasts were based on factors including Brexit and concerns about a lack of population growth.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If Richard Leonard is concerned about these things - as he should be, as I am - it makes it all the more strange that he has appointed a Brexiteer as his Brexit spokesperson when what he should be doing is getting behind this Government to argue for continued single market membership.”
She added: “Richard Leonard is right on one thing - Scotland’s growth rate is not yet matching that of other small independent countries. I wonder why that is.
“So if Richard Leonard wants to join me in supporting Scotland becoming a small independent successful country then I will welcome his conversion.”