Swinney puts the ‘Yes’ case forward in Kelso

In an exclusive interview with The Southern, John Swinney has claimed independence would bring more ‘connectivity’ for the area and increase economic opportunities.

The cabinet secretary for finance spoke to us during a visit to Scotmas in Kelso, ahead of a public meeting in the town last week.

Mr Swinney said: “If you look at what we’ve done under devolution, the statistics speak for themselves – the Scottish economy has got back to its pre-recession levels of activity earlier than the UK economy.

“Why’s that? Well that’s because the Scottish Government has taken a different set of decisions. We’ve invested in the economy and we’ve done that with just a limited range of powers at our disposal.

“So, with a broader range of powers at our disposal, we could strengthen and support the effective promotion of Scottish businesses overseas into new markets and we could invest more significantly in the capital infrastructure of our country.

“Of course infrastructure projects are crucial to the connectivity of the Scottish Borders and enable more and more businesses and individuals to be better connected with the wider world, where so many of our economic opportunities will come from.”

Mr Swinney also responded to Chancellor George Osborne’s comments from his visit to St Boswells that the Borders would be hardest hit by independence.

Mr Swinney said: “I really don’t understand that point of view because I want to make sure that companies in the Borders are able to have even more connectivity than they have got just now – access to markets south of the border, and international markets are at the heart of our economic propositions – and to make sure that companies here are able to benefit from the renewed focus we would have on creating better economic conditions here in Scotland.

“I just don’t understand the arguments put forward that somehow the establishment of independence does anything other than strengthen the economic foundations of Scotland and give us a better ability to compete in the international markets and to generate economic returns for localities like the Borders.”

Mr Swinney added: “If I look at some of the changes that have taken place in the Scottish economy in the last 30 years, there’s been a loss of control, a gravitational pull of activity to London.

“Let’s start to reverse that, let’s get more of the economic activity being led and happening here in Scotland, and as a consequence of that we will get real benefits.”

Scotmas owner Derek Cameron showed Mr Swinney round the company’s plant in Kelso, which specialises in the design of water treatment dosing systems.

Mr Cameron said: “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.”

Mr Swinney later joined a panel of speakers, including James Aitken, immediate past convener of Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, Carol Fox from Women for Independence, and author and playwright Judy Steel at a public meeting in Ednam House Hotel, attended by around 100 people.