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Why 'business as usual' is no longer appropriate for Scotland

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has been campaigning for independence. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his Finance Secretary John Swinney have set out their tax plans for an independent Scotland.

In a packed lecture hall at Dundee University, he described the 200 page document as a menu from which Scots can see the choices available to them.

In ten chapters, the document sets out the reasons why ‘business as usual’ is no longer appropriate for Scotland.

Mr Salmond said: ‘’The one size fits all economic policies of successive Westminster governments have failed and are continuing to fail the people of Scotland.’’

This is the central theme of the report which goes through every policy from childcare to aviation duty pointing out how an independent Scotland could do it so much better.

An independent Scotland could face higher taxes and deeper cuts to spending, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies Credit: Press Association

Coming the day after the Institute of Fiscal Studies declared that in the best case scenario Scotland would require significant spending cuts and tax rises, this paints rather a different picture, although is sparse on the finer detail.

Instead of projecting figures forward it uses historic figures of Scotland’s perceived underperformance as part of the UK.

On page 41 of the ‘menu’ it sets out the tax levers which, if under Scottish control, the SNP believes could be used to boost productivity and economic growth.

The example given is the Nationalists' promise of a 3% corporation tax cut. That would have the potential to increase output by 1.4% they say and create 27,000 jobs.

There are also hints at policies such as National Insurance contribution relief for small businesses, an increase in the minimum wage and increase in childcare.

On that last point Alex Salmond was keen to point out to his Dundee audience that the current cost of childcare is holding back women from our workforce.

Increasing the level of participation in our economy by securing new and long-term job opportunities and boosting productivity by improving the business environment will help ensure that the benefits of economic growth are felt by all parts of our country.

– Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond

The ‘choices’ open to Scotland under independence, the document says, could deliver transformational change at all levels of Scotland’s economy and society.

This paper has been published just a week ahead of the SNP’s White Paper - its’ blueprint for independence. That’s expected to be a 500 page document covering all aspects of Scottish society and how they would change under independence.

If the Scottish people were complaining about not having enough information ahead of next September's vote, they’ll soon not be complaining any more.

Nationalists call for a Yes vote in next year's independence referendum. Credit: Lesley Martin/PA Wire

In the space of a week we will have had the IFS report pointing to potential 8% rises in VAT, 9% rises in income tax and the prospect of a 6% cut in public spending over the next 50 years.

Today, we have the SNP looking back at the last five decades, drawing the conclusion that had Scotland had control over the 21 policy areas which remain reserved, the country could have been doing much better – on a par with Germany is the aspiration.

The White Paper will be a different matter altogether. It, the Nationalists hope, will be a pivotal moment in their referendum campaign. Behind in the polls, they will outline proposals on everything from the economy to defence to energy and the environment hoping what they have to say can win a YES vote.

In an attempt to do that, the party are currently finalising plans to distribute an abbreviated version of the White Paper to every home, business, school and library in Scotland. As we approach the end of the year the independence debate is hotting up and finally the facts and figures are starting to come into play.