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Radical change needed to help economy grow, insists Richard Leonard

The Scottish Labour leader was speaking during a debate at the Scottish Parliament.

Richard Leonard discussed the economy during a debate at Holyrood (Jane Barlow/PA)
Richard Leonard discussed the economy during a debate at Holyrood (Jane Barlow/PA)

Richard Leonard has called for a “radical” change in the approach to the Scottish economy.

Speaking at Holyrood on Wednesday, the Labour leader urged the Scottish Government to adopt an industrial strategy to “promote indigenous business development and to grow a more diverse economy”.

He described the recent loss of jobs at firms including Kaiam, Health Environmental Services and Pinneys as “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.

He said: “Today’s debate is about Parliament reasserting itself. It is a declaration of intent that the economy cannot be left to the market, that we will not stand by whilst working people are exploited and then cast aside.

“It is a rejection of the creed that the economy is nothing to do with the parliament and politics, because it is everything to do with parliament and politics.

“This Parliament is nothing if it does not side with the working people we represent.”

We can go on as we are or we can take a more radical direction. Richard Leonard

As well as saying he does not believe economic uncertainty can be addressed by nationalism, Mr Leonard said there must be greater investment in businesses in Scotland, rather than funds being awarded to companies started overseas.

Mr Leonard also proposed workers should be given a “statutory preferential right” to buy the enterprise they work for when it is put up for sale or faces closure.

He said: “We are calling for a wholly new approach based on popular democracy and workers’ rights on sustainable development, on a social purpose as well as an economic purpose – an approach to the economy where the needs of all will count for more than the profits of the few.

“This Parliament and this Government has a choice – we can go on as we are or we can take a more radical direction.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay responded by saying the Scottish Government is “committed” to growing the economy and supporting workers.

Mr Mackay said: “Richard Leonard believes that Scotland’s future economy needs an industrial strategy, and I say that we already have one.

“It’s focused on the strong, vibrant and diverse economy which is necessary to support quality jobs and strong, resilient regional economies.

“We do want Scotland to be the best place to live, work and invest. The Government is absolutely committed to that through the Economic Action Plan and the Economic Strategy that we’ve set out.

“We will intervene where we can when there’s ways we can support companies and the workforce and we do have that desire, as Richard Leonard has set out, for more employee-owned companies.

“So Scotland does have huge economic potential and we want to work together to ensure that we can unlock that potential in the interests of all the people of Scotland.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart said: “After 11 years of SNP Government, we have a low growth, low productivity and low wage economy.

“We have an SNP Government that has failed to meet every one of its own seven economic targets. Scotland is now the highest-taxed part of the UK for workers earning over £26,000 and for businesses looking to expand.

“We have the lowest businesses creation rates in the UK and we have seen a series of large-scale business failures showing that the SNP’s enterprise policy is not working.”

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie echoed Mr Leonard’s opening statements about workers being made redundant.

He said: “The individuals, their families, their wider communities who have been affected should be in all of our thoughts.”

PA

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