The Scottish economy has been mismanaged by UK Government for the last fifty years

Consideration has been given to the impact that UK Government policy, or lack of policy, has had on specific aspects of the Scottish economy, but how have these policies affected the Scottish economy generally? “For much of the twentieth century the Scottish economy has under-performed the UK as a whole”, (Ashcroft, 2002). The data that is available supports this claim. Very rarely has the Scottish economy exceeded, or even matched, the level of performance attained by the UK as a whole. “The trend rate of economic growth is comparatively low … between 1964 and 1989 the average rate of growth of GDP was 2.1 per cent per annum in Scotland compared to 2.4 per cent for the UK as a whole”, (Ashcroft, 2002). A similar conclusion was provided by McLaren & Harris (2007) five years later “Over the whole economy, the UK growth rate (1998-2006) was 2.7% p.a. while Scotland’s was 2.0% p.a. To put this in context, the UK has been outgrowing Scotland since the 1970’s”.

This economic underperformance has had a number of impacts on Scotland but a critical area that has been particularly badly affected is employment. “Scotland’s performance during the 1990’s in respect of employment growth and unemployment reductions leave it a long way short of the best performing economies during the decade, including the rest of the UK”, (Bell, 2002). When Scotland’s growth of employment record is compared against other areas of the UK the story is even more shocking. “While the group of five South East counties is 70 per cent larger than Scotland in terms of employment , the growth of employment in the 1995-1999 period was 290 per cent larger”, (Hood and Paterson, 2002). Underlying many of these economic problems has been the failure of UK governments to develop appropriate economic policies focused on the specific needs of Scotland. “The post-1980 period has had few significant attempts to develop, promote, and pursue a coherent long term economic vision for Scotland”, (Firn, 2002). In recognising this problem, Ashcroft (2002) came to the following conclusion; “something was always missing … the missing ingredient was the lack of a strategy from central government for economic development in Scotland”. This is an astonishing claim and a calamitous state of affairs for Scotland. The essence of this claim is that for almost fifty years there has been no effective UK Government strategy to develop the Scottish economy.

With the Scottish Government having to operate with limited powers, and unable to greatly influence the conditions that are required to stimulate economic development in Scotland, the onus has fallen on UK Government. Yet again, UK Government has failed. It has failed to create the policies and the environment required to develop and grow the Scottish economy and to bring it into line with the UK national average. It is quite clear from the evidence that the economic policies required for successful economic development in Scotland are quite different from those required by the rest of the UK. By shoehorning Scotland into a “one size fits all” UK wide economic policy, immense damage has been done to the Scottish economy over the last fifty years.