Q As you know, fDi magazine named Scotland its European Region of the Future 2008/09. What is Scotland’s future? What will be its status in 10 years’ time?

A I think Scotland will be independent in 10 years’ time but one of the things I have been pointing out is that we will still be part of the UK, in the sense that we will have the same monarch and the same social union within the EU, effectively the same market practices, financial regulation and open market. So we’re not moving anywhere geographically or in terms of business practice but we will have the political ability to take decisive economic action to improve our competitive advantage.

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The issue has been raised about overseas students being allowed to work for two years in the UK after their studies are finished. If we had control of our immigration policy I would make it five years tomorrow; I might even make it 10 years, or indefinite, because it is an absolute no-brainer. Obviously, we want people to come to Scotland to study regardless of whether or not they are going straight back to their own country but certainly we would be delighted to host these people in our economy and our country if they wanted to stay and work.

At the stroke of a pen, with a very quick regulatory instrument, we would have a significant renewed competitive advantage. What stops us is that our immigration policies are controlled by London and they have a different agenda. Scotland is not full up, we’ve got lots of space and we want lots more people. We want our own people to stay and we want new people to come. There’s a significant illustration of what you could do at no cost with enormous benefit.

Q Do you think the corporate sector, including foreign companies, would welcome Scotland’s independence?

A There was a poll of business opinion published recently which showed tremendous support for the government and its objectives and performance but even more interestingly it showed a substantial shift in support of Scottish independence, based on our performance. The government is business-friendly, approachable and engages with the business community and sectors across Scotland. The engagement we have with financial services is only one set of engagements across a range of sectors. So I think by the deeds of the Scottish government, we are becoming well-known, well-regarded and respected by the business community, and there is a growing feeling that the more autonomy Scotland has, the better it will be for business.

Q And it would be your intention to bring down the corporate tax rate?

A I am wholly convinced by the Irish example on this. Ireland has effectively reduced its corporate tax rate by two-thirds over the past 15 years, while increasing its corporate tax revenue by a factor of six in real terms. Scotland starts from a much higher base than Ireland did 15 years ago but it would still work decisively in our favour. Far better to have a clear competitive incentive than to have any number of indirect incentives or handouts. There would be a stampede, in my view, up the M1 towards Scotland.

Q Is Scotland’s fiscal situation such that you could get away with that?

A If we were an independent country we could. Northern Ireland has just tried this within the UK and they have been stopped. I supported their efforts because if they affected this from the treasury then Scotland would be right behind them. It will certainly never happen within the UK but it certainly could happen if Scotland had control over corporate tax, just like immigration policy. These are areas of policy which can be competitive advantages for Scotland – small countries are well-placed to play these factors out.

CURRICULUM VITAE

 

ALEX SALMOND

2007Government of Scotland

First minister and MSP for Gordon constituency

2004Scottish National Party

Leader

1999Scottish Parliament

MSP for Banff and Buchan constituency