John Swinney vows to ‘tackle all that is wrong with our politics’ as he unveils economic strategy

John Swinney

John Swinney vows to ‘tackle all that is wrong with our politics’ as he unveils economic strategy

GB News
Tony Mcguire

By Tony Mcguire

Published: 17/05/2024

- 19:44

Swinney plans to unlock Scotland’s green energy potential

First Minister John Swinney has vowed to bring people together to “tackle all that is wrong with our politics today”, during a speech giving a first glimpse of his economic strategy in front of key finance and business stakeholders.

Introduced by his Deputy and Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, he laid out his plans to fully harness Scotland’s green energy potential to build a sustainable, innovative and successful economy in order to achieve his primary objective, eradicating child poverty.

He told his audience at Barclay’s Campus in Glasgow: “There is no conflict in my mind, or in the priorities of my Government, between eradicating child poverty and boosting economic growth.

“Reducing child poverty boosts spending power, boosts productivity through a healthier workforce and leads to greater and more equal labour market participation.”

During his 21-minute address, he conceded the Scottish Government has spent too much time producing strategy papers, which he vowed to replace with “concrete actions”.

“I will demand from my Government more concrete actions and fewer strategy documents,” he said, adding that “a strategic approach is clearly essential but I want the first question we ask ourselves to be, ‘what can we do?’ rather than ‘what can we write down?’”

Kate Forbes

Introduced by his Deputy and Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, he laid out his plans to fully harness Scotland’s green energy potential

GB News

The First Minister also reflected on the fresh perspective he gained from his “sabbatical” year off from participating at the highest levels of Government.

Swinney stepped down from his role in Government with the arrival of Humza Yousaf, advocated for “new blood” to lead the party henceforth.

“When I left office last year,” he said, “I thought I had held my last senior office in politics.

“I didn’t realise at the time that in fact, I was in a sort of sabbatical year.

“During that time, I began to see the world - and crucially, our politics - from a very different perspective.

“To be honest, I didn’t like what I saw: I saw our politics and polarised, congregative, disinterested in finding common ground and more interested in dragging down than building up” and intends “to tackle all that is wrong with our politics today” by bringing people together.


The launch of Swinney’s leadership bid raised immediate questions about the distinct lack of “new blood” a political veteran in Government since 2007 would bring to the office, further compounded by a cabinet ‘reshuffle’ which included only one new addition in Kate Forbes.

Yet there is no duo with greater experience in managing the Scottish economy than Forbes and Swinney.

Kate Forbes is broadly perceived to have been a successful Cabinet Secretary of Finance under Nicola Sturgeon, while John Swinney was Alex Salmond’s choice for Finance Secretary at the start of the SNP’s 17-year political reign in 2007.

In this environment, sharing the air with familiar faces from the worlds of finance and business, both pull considerable weight.

Given their combined experience managing the nation’s finances, the leadership duo were unlikely to be in any real danger of today’s speech falling flat.

He insists the population is key to his “ambitious agenda” to strengthen the Scottish economy, contesting the UK Government’s stance on migration.

John Swinney

Swinney insisted population is key to his 'ambitious agenda'

GB News

He said: “It’s in Scotland’s interests to have a more generous system, not a tighter one”, citing “significant economic damage in Scotland” and predicting future population growth to come from inward migration.

He believes the end of freedom of movement and the “ever-wilder rhetoric about migration” will do nought but harm Scotland’s economic prospects: “We badly therefore need to return to the approach of European freedom of movement.”

He knows that won’t happen while Scotland’s migration policy is decided by Westminster, and echoes Scottish independence as the golden solution.

Responding to Swinney’s speech, Scottish Conservative Shadow Business Secretary Murdo Fraser pushed back, saying: “Growing our economy will continue to take a backseat as long as John Swinney continues on from his predecessors and pushes his independence obsession at every turn.”

Swinney insisted more details fleshing out his plans were coming down the pipeline and while he gave considerable time over to Scotland’s green energy sector, he offered just a cursory nod to manufacturing, food and drink, screen and tourism.

Furthermore, no time was given over to the emerging threat of a crippling housing emergency, which Swinney agreed to recognise in the Holyrood chamber during Thursday’s Scottish Labour debate.

If ever there was a time to enact “concrete actions” over yet another strategy document, the declaration of a national housing emergency should be it.

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