Taking Scotland Forward: Economy

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 31st May 2016.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

If Mr Stevenson had attended the number of oil and gas events that I have attended over the past few weeks, he would know that the continual refrain that I hear from people in the oil and gas industry is about why the transferable skills that are used in the North Sea are not allowed to be used onshore in Scotland because of his party’s dithering on the moratorium on fracking.

If he is interested in oil and gas and supporting jobs, he needs to get on with it.

The outlook on gross domestic product is concerning, as GDP growth is behind that of the rest of the UK, having previously been higher. Unemployment in Scotland is substantially higher than in the rest of the UK and the gap is widening. Retail sales are declining and business confidence is low. There is no point pretending that there are not issues that need to be addressed.

The Scottish Government will point to the latest figures on foreign direct investment. I looked with great interest at the Ernst & Young report on that that came out last week, and I welcome the fact that the number of projects increased substantially in 2015 compared with 2014. Of course, it cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that there was a decline in the years running up to 2014 and a sudden spring back after 2014 was over. What event in 2014 could possibly have led to that loss of confidence and deterrence of international investors?

As I pointed out in my intervention earlier, the figures in the EY report are only part of the story, because the report shows only the number of projects and not their total value, either individually or cumulatively, so we cannot assess the total level of foreign direct investment. I welcome the commitment that the new economy secretary has just given to ask EY to look again at the issue and see whether we can be better informed about what exactly is going on with inward investment.