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NICOLA STURGEON announced her government will explore the prospect of a state-owned national infrastructure company today, as she said she was “more confident than ever” Scotland would achieve independence.
The SNP First Minister said a new infrastructure commission would explore the feasibility of a such a government-owned body. It is thought this could end the role of private finance in public works, following the failure of private finance initiative (PFI) projects.
“We are building a new Scotland here at home,” she told SNP conference in a closing address today. “And we’re putting Scotland firmly on the map.”
The First Minister said the Scottish government would extend the prohibition of zero-hours contracts and enforcement of the living wage to more public contracts and government funding streams. She also promised “genuine workforce engagement, including with trade unions.”
There will be an expansion of bursaries for student nurses, Ms Sturgeon promised.
Meanwhile, a new advanced manufacturing fund, paid for with cash from the EU, will “help small and medium-sized businesses modernise and grow,” she said.
“In the 1980s, the Tories did their best to wipe out Scottish industries,” she explained. “The effect was to de-industrialise our country.
“Now, as we approach a new decade, we are rebuilding. The SNP is re-industrialising Scotland.”
The announcements follow extensive pressure from Labour for the SNP government to focus on Scotland’s industry. In March Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told the Morning Star that ministers “lurch from one failed rescue to the next.”
Last night Mr Leonard accused Ms Sturgeon of “simply following the agenda set by Labour for years.”
And he criticised her for failing to address the SNP-ordered Growth Commission. This blueprint for independence was criticised by figures on both sides of the separatism debate for being too economically conservative.
“The so-called Growth Commission — in reality a cuts commission — has been the elephant in the room at the SNP conference,” Mr Leonard said.
“The First Minister could not bear to tell her activists that her new plan for independence means a decade of unprecedented austerity.”
Ms Sturgeon told conference delegates that Britain’s future relationship with the EU “will determine the context in which Scotland would become independent.”
She stressed: “I am more confident than ever that Scotland will be independent.”
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