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Chris  Brown

In other news... Scotland!

Authors: Chris Brown Chris Brown

25 July 2011

While Whitehall struggles to balance austerity measures alongside growing newspaper scandals, it seems that Scotland is quietly getting on with things. Figures produced over the past few weeks appear to show that the Scottish economy is gradually improving month-on-month, with employment levels having increased by 20,000  between March and May 2011, and the number of unemployed decreasing at a rate seven times that of the rest of the UK. So is there a whiff of a rosy life and malt drifting over the border?

A report from the Bank of Scotland indicated a seventh consecutive month of improvement to the Scottish jobs market up to May - a trend which has since continued into it’s eight month, putting unemployment in Scotland at its lowest level for nearly 2 years. But what is driving this growth? It appears there are three main areas responsible for this positive performance; namely exports, construction and an increasing drive towards renewable energy.  

Figures show that Scottish food and Scotch whisky exports combined contribute £4.5 billion to the Scottish economy each year – Whisky making-up around £3.5billion of this. The vital role of the construction industry in the Scottish economy and jobs, which First Minister Alex Salmond highlighted following his SNP victory back in May, has resulted in an 11.6 per cent increase in jobs in the sector in the year up to March.

In addition, over the past few months alone a number of international companies have launched several employment initiatives and substantial investment aimed at helping make Scotland one of the world leaders at producers of renewable energy and bringing together a group of knowledge intensive, high-end firms offering investment opportunities and job creation.

Further to this, a development zone is to be established around Edinburgh Airport as a hub for international business and transport. Projected to provide up to £4.4 billion into the Scottish economy it will also provide up to 3,600 new jobs adding to the recent re-development of the airport.

However, nobody is under any illusion of the precariousness of achieving these successes. The speed of this growth has already slowed and austerity measures are biting this week with the announcement that RAF Leuchars is to be closed in similar fashion to RAF Kinloss earlier this year. It means that around 5000 (c. 50 per cent) RAF personnel jobs in Scotland will be lost.

Broadly however, the future for Scotland is looking more rosy than it does ‘dreich’ and with the devolution of powers around corporation tax and borrowing powers, there is potential for even more home-grown growth. News of improvements to job prospects and lower unemployment levels is good news, not just for Scotland but the UK as a whole. And importantly, it is the strength of Scotland’s leading cities that is proudly showing.