Until independence happens and Salmond has the chance to implement his policies, it could be argued that there is no real way to determine how it will affect employment in Scotland.
However, both those who support the ‘Yes’ campaign and those who support the ‘No’ campaign have come up with some suggestions. As the time to vote on independence draws ever closer, now is the perfect opportunity to explore both sides of the argument.
One of Alex Salmond’s more ambitious proposals is a 3% cut in corporation tax. The leader of the Yes campaign claims that this will allow Scotland to compete with London when it comes to attracting new businesses. According to Salmond, even a 1% increase in productivity following independence could lead to 23,000 extra jobs. The No campaign, however, claims that this will lead to financial losses that could otherwise cover key services, such as the Scottish NHS.
In addition to generating extra employment, Salmond plans to abolish the Bedroom Tax and reverse some welfare reforms. He also wants to increase the minimum wage so that it rises in line with inflation. While this may make living conditions easier for some living in Scotland, those who propose a sharp rise claim it could prevent businesses from wanting to invest there. As a result, unemployment may increase.
It appears the Scottish National Part (SNP) is trying to work towards leveling the employment playing field for parents. Although the coalition government has announced plans to split maternity and paternity leave, which in theory should make returning to work following a pregnancy easier, the SNP want to take their support one step further. An extra free 30 hours of childcare per week for parents of 3 and 4 year olds may also address gender balances in the Scottish workforce. Currently, parents living in England, Wales, and Scotland only benefit from 15 hours of free childcare per week, which usually fall within school times. Such a big adjustment may make it easier for parents of young children to share caring responsibilities.
One key area where Scotland is likely to see employment gains is the tourism sector. As an independent nation, it can still claim to be part of Great Britain, while maximizing on its Scottish identity. However, whether this alongside welfare reforms and cuts to corporation tax can balance out job losses remains unclear.
As anybody who has watched the debates between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond will already know, economics have become a fierce battleground in the fight for independence. Currently, those living in the UK pay around £9,000 per year in taxes, on average. According to Salmond, this currently stands at an average of £10,700 per person in Scotland. With a smaller population to fund, this may change.
While the Yes and No campaign groups both have their own predictions on what will happen to employment in Scotland should it become independent, there is only one way for the UK’s northernmost nation to find out.