Scotland’s potential on the world stage and the gains of independence will today be highlighted by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney in Kelso.
Mr Swinney will meet with Derek Cameron, Owner and Chairman of Scotmas Group, a company based in Kelso with a global reach that specialises in the design of water treatment dosing systems.
Scotmas survived the economic downturn of 2008 and – with support form Scottish Enterprise – expanded their operations and developed a chlorine dioxide system for water treatment, for use in the off-shore oil and gas industry and other services including hospitals; since then they have gone form strength to strength.
The visit follows news coverage earlier this week showing Scotland is the 14th wealthiest country in the OECD in terms of by GDP per capita - £2,300 higher than UK as whole and ahead of France and Japan.
Speaking ahead of the Kelso visit Mr Swinney said:
“The Borders is a hugely important area and Scotmas is a great company that highlights Scotland’s business strengths; flexibility, the ability to innovate and the confidence to trade and deliver on the world stage.
“The success of Scotmas reflects Scotland’s annual growh in manufactured exports – the fastest seen since 2008 – this is good news for Scottish businesses and the wider Scottish economy.
“This comes in the same week that we see coverage of new analysis showing Scotland’s GDP per head is significantly better than major economies like France, Japan and the UK as a whole.
“Clearly, Scotland more than has what it takes to be a successful, independent country. A Yes vote brings us the opportunity to use that wealth to help employers across Scotland, instead of wasting £100bn on a new system of Trident nuclear weapons.
“With a YES vote and the full powers of independence we would be able to use the full range of economic levers at our disposal to enable Scottish companies to increase their global reach.”
Scotmas Chairman, Mr Cameron, added:
“The powers of devolution have been good for business in Scotland but with a Yes vote and independence my company and other firms can do so much more.
“Scotland is a well known and well liked country internationally – people across the globe are watching what happens on September 18 very closely – with a YES vote international interest will increase and the global business opportunities available to Scotland will grow and grow.”
David Cameron’s plans to be based in Scotland for the final two weeks of the referendum campaign have been criticised by his UK Government colleagues – amidst concerns that his unpopularity will damage the No campaign.
Media reports today confirm that senior figures in the Liberal Democrats believe that the Prime Minister is a “huge negative in Scotland” and that he should “stay out of the country as much as possible” ahead of the referendum.
Mr Cameron’s central role in the No camp has already faced criticism from Labour – with senior figures warning against his “toxic” influence on the No campaign.
Commenting, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:
“This is a huge embarrassment for David Cameron – that even his own government colleagues recognise the extent of his unpopularity in Scotland should make him pause and reflect on the disastrous impact his policies are having on communities across the country.
“Perhaps rather than using his time in Scotland to spread the latest Project Fear scare stories, David Cameron should take the opportunity to issue an apology for his welfare cuts which are decimating our welfare state and have seen a 400 per cent increase in people relying on foodbanks.
“With David Cameron taking a central role in the final stages of the referendum campaign, it is clearer now more than ever that the No campaign is nothing more than a Tory front.
“Scotland totally rejected David Cameron and the Tories at the last election – but for as long as we are under the Westminster system, we are still subject to the austerity agenda of a government we didn't vote for. That is why a Yes vote in September is so important.
“With a YES vote we can ensure that we get the government we vote for every single time – and won’t have 'toxic' Tory Prime Ministers imposed on us against our will ever again.”
The SNP is today highlighting further confirmation that the only threat to Scotland’s place in the EU comes from Westminster following new UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s admission that; "It certainly is a Eurosceptic cabinet".
As reported in today’s Herald, Mr Fallon’s comments on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme about David Cameron’s reshuffle follow on from Phillip Hammond’s promotion to Foreign Secretary and David Cameron’s misrepresentative comments by EU President Jean Claude Junker.
The new Euro-sceptic appointees have also been described as "extremists" and "head bangers" by Mr Cameron’s coalition colleague and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg following reports of the PM’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and challenge the European Court of Human Rights.
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, who is also Convener of the European and External Affairs Committee, said:
“As if there was ever any doubt, this admission by the UK’s new Defence Secretary has sealed the fact that the only threat to Scotland’s membership of the EU comes from Westminster.
“The promotion of Philip Hammond - who is openly anti-EU - to UK Foreign Secretary has put one hand on the exit door leading the UK out of the European Union.
“I’m not going to get involved in trading insults – the UK government seem to be doing a fine job of that themselves – but the lurch to the right by the Tories is an alarming development.
“There is now a huge risk that Scotland will be dragged out of Europe against our wishes – which would do great damage Scottish jobs and investment - and the new Tory Defence Secretary has admitted as much.
“Opinion polls consistently show that people in Scotland want to remain in Europe – and that the risk of being taken out of Europe by Westminster boosts a Yes vote in September.
“The message now is crystal clear – only a Yes vote can protect Scotland’s future in Europe.”
The Scottish National Party has said the UK government must not get distracted by a potential Cabinet reshuffle on Monday and focus on the “utter shambles” at the Department of Work and Pensions. The department has been heavily criticised recently for a string of blunders which have hit some of the most vulnerable people in society.
*This week, the DWP failed to provide a straightforward answer to Parliament as to whether the Treasury had signed off the business case for the controversial Universal Credit welfare programme. Earlier in the week, top civil servant Bob Kerslake said the controversial scheme had not been approved by the Treasury, contradicting earlier assurances from welfare minister Esther McVey who told MPs that the Treasury had approved the "strategic outline business case".
* The DWP has refused to commission analysis into the link between foodbanks and welfare cuts – despite Scotland Office Minister David Mundell calling for the research only two weeks ago. A report in the Daily Record states Westminster is “scared of the truth” on welfare following UK Employment Minister Esther McVey’s admission there are “no immediate plans to produce or commission further research”. This is despite foodbank use increasing by 400 per cent in the last year, with 22,000 children in Scotland forced to rely on foodbanks.
* The Department of Work and Pensions was heavily criticised following a damning report from the Public Accounts Committee on the introduction of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which described the scheme as a “fiasco.” The cross-party group of MPs warned that the PIP scheme has been “rushed” through with a “shocking” impact on claimants.
Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:
“When it comes to welfare, Westminster is an utter shambles.
“While the UK government may be focusing on reshuffling their cabinet, they need to urgently act on some of the damage they are causing to some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“Scotland is an incredibly wealthy nation – richer per head than France, Japan and the UK as a whole – and yet thanks to Westminster’s attack on the welfare state more than 22,000 children in Scotland have to rely on foodbanks.
“With a YES vote in September, we can make Scotland’s wealth work for all the people who live here and create a fairer welfare system based on Scotland’s needs – in stark contrast to Westminster’s punitive cuts which are pushing more and more people into poverty.”
I was delighted to see Darren McCraw and Rachel Robertson, from Newbattle High, be picked to participate in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony on 23rd July. I understand that, as part of their role as second team hosts, they’ll be announcing the arrival of the Seychelles and Pakistan teams to the stadium – the two countries Midlothian Council is supporting during the Games. I’m sure Darren and Rachel will have a great time and I look forward to keeping an eye out for them during the ceremony!
Congratulations are also due to Loanhead’s MacTaggart Scott for winning the 2014 VQ Employer of the Year Award. I visited the company towards the end of last year and this Award is truly merited, especially in light of the tremendous support and encouragement it gives to those members of staff undertaking vocational qualifications.
Edinburgh College has also been praised recently with a glowing report from Education Scotland that highlighted how well the College engages with students and external stakeholders. Its Dalkeith campus is a real boon to Midlothian and I find it highly encouraging to see acknowledgement of the College’s good work.
As usual, the No campaign is doing a great job of undermining itself. First they tell us an independent Scotland will incur £2.7bn of start-up costs. Then, following Prof. Dunleavy’s published figures which estimate that at worst costs will be £200 million, Alistair Carmichael is heard telling BBC Scotland that he has no basis on which to challenge that figure. So not only do they grossly over-estimate the cost in the first instance, when presented with a properly researched estimate they can’t even challenge it – probably because they know it’s accurate. The term ‘scaremongering’ is certainly over-used in this debate but I doubt we’ll find a better definition. Perhaps ‘untruthful’ could also apply?
This week has seen East Lothian Council cut £123,000 from Musselburgh Grammar School’s budget in the face of a recent report which criticised standards at the school. This Labour-led authority is determined to lower education standards across the county as they seek to make £600,000 worth of cuts to the secondary schools budget. Ultimately the students will suffer and there will be serious long-term problems arisen from these cuts.
My congratulations to, Musselburgh resident, Kenneth Crawford who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to aviation. Kenneth worked as Head of Aviation at Transport Scotland for more than 14 years until his retirement in September.
And this week, we have seen the No campaign embarrassed again as Scottish Tory Chairman, Richard Keen, attacked Labour’s proposal for more powers for the Scottish Parliament. He went on to accuse Labour of being “thoroughly complacent”, taking voters for granted. The domestic between the two parties comes as Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, admitted that their campaign had a little “wobble” six weeks ago, citing problems with “resources, message disciple and striking the right balance between the positive and negative”. With senior figures in the campaign lining up to criticise Project Fear, can we really trust anything they say at all?
And finally, I was delighted to be able to celebrate National Care Home Open Day at the Drummohr Care Home in Wallyford. The Open Day allows members of the public to visit their local care homes to learn about the services they provide and to organise events to creating lasting ties with the community. This year’s theme was the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the residents certainly had a lot of fun. My thanks go to the manager, Giuseppe Faraoni, his staff and all the residents at Drummohr Care Home. They made me feel very welcome and I can’t wait for next year’s Open Day.