Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Liberal Democrats reveal ambitious 100,000 jobs plan #sp11

The launch took place in a working factory in Innerleithen
A week or so ago, I e-mailed the Scottish Lib Dem press office and timidly asked if I might be allowed to go  to the manifesto launch today, on the grounds that if you don't ask, you don't get.  I was quite surprised to be told that I could come along and I didn't even have to promise to behave myself.

I was quite excited this morning, but it also felt a bit weird.  I was neither official party person, nor proper journalist. I was probably too tentative when it came to getting photos - I was determined to stay well and truly out of the way, not wanting to obscure anyone else's shot. When we were actually wandering round the cashmere factory following Tavish, Jeremy Purvis and Euan Robson on their tour, I was a bit worried I'd fall over or break something. You can just imagine the lifelong embarrassment of the story "Lib Dem Blogger breaks expensive machine at manifesto launch."

The event took place at Caerlees Mills in utterly gorgeous town of Innerleithen. The scenery around was so lush, green and full of the optimism of Spring, that it seemed absolutely the right place to launch a bold and ambitious plan to kickstart Scotland's economy. Tavish said that they'd deliberately chosen a business to illustrate our plans to create jobs. Basically, the mill we were in could employ more people if it could get the lending it needed.

The manifesto was, he said, a response to real problems presented by real people. He spoke of the family in Dunfermline, where the dad earned £15,000 a year in a job at Edinburgh Airport. Not only were they at their wits' end worrying about making ends meet, but they were scared about what they'd do if he lost his job.

Our plans, he said, were ambitious for Scotland. Every minister in a Liberal Democrat government would be expected to deliver on a 30 day action plan on growth and jobs. Rather than go off for the Summer, the Cabinet would continue to meet.

The centrepiece of the plans is a one off £1.5 billion windfall, which comes from making Scottish Water a public benefit corporation. It retains public ownership, but the way I understand it is that the debt it owes the taxpayer is sold off so that it pays the public purse back for the money it's borrowed. This sort of restructuring would give an immediate cash windfall of around £2.75 billion to be split between the UK and Scottish Governments.

Under Liberal Democrat plans, this one off windfall would be invested for the long term - to create 100,000 jobs, by expanding the digital economy, making sure businesses and people have access to superfast broadband to ensure they are not losing out, by investing in science, energy saving measures to reduce fuel bills and help tackle climate change, help for people to get on the property ladder and major investment in early intervention including a pupil premium to make sure poorer kids get the help they need in school.

Jeremy Purvis gave us some chilling figures - of the 600,000 10 year olds, not far off my daughter's age, 1 in 5 would reach 16 and not be in either education or employment if we carried on as we are. That's 120,000 kids. Twice the population of the town where I live. Jeremy Purvis said that investing in these kids from the start would ultimately save, according to the Scottish Government's own figures, £37,000 per child because they'd be working, paying taxes and enjoying a decent quality of life. We would allow organisations who had saved money from better outcomes to keep it and so create a virtuous cycle of reward and reinvestment..

Jeremy and Tavish faced some challenging questions from journalists which they dealt with extremely well. They came across as serious, substantial, professionals who understood the problems and what was needed to solve them.

Tavish was asked about party morale in the wake of polls and recent events. He answered that really well, saying that we want to concentrate on the issues that matter to people, not the froth whipped up by political journalists. He said it was a long campaign and he was looking forward to detailed discussion of our exciting agenda for the future.

A question about coalition red lines brought a very pithy and forthright response - basically the three points on the front of the manifesto on jobs, education and local services should provide a bit of a clue.

Another about whether Nick Clegg was a liability was met with a calm and assured list of the good things the Liberal Democrats have done in coalition, 92,000 people taken out of tax, child detention stopped at Dungavel, the pension/earnings link restored.

You can read the whole manifesto in glorious technicolor right here.

And so far I've not even touched upon localism and our opposition to a national police force. That's for another time.  Right now, my daughter's school play beckons................


cynicalHighlander said...

Oh dear oh dear one couldn't make it up first we have Danny Alexander destroying future Scottish jobs now we have Purvis giving the treasury money from selling Scottish Water and moving problem kids into the workplace pushing the onus onto employers. They did it to the Irish over a 100yrs ago and they wont do it again.

DougtheDug said...

I saw Jeremy Purvis on Newsnight last night talking about the Scottish Water money raising wheeze.

He was asked a reasonable question from Gordon Brewer along the lines of, "As the party of Government have you got written confirmation from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander (Lib-Dem) and his boss Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (Conserative) that you can keep the money?".

In response I've never seen such ducking, weaving and avoiding the question in my life from Jeremy Purvis.

I mean, as a party in the UK Government the Lib-Dems have actually got written confirmation from the Treasury that they can keep any Scottish Water money, haven't they?

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't worry too much about getting in people's shots.

I have had to hang around at various media events, and have learnt that professional snappers are very good at getting the shot they want, and not anything else, that is how they can all crowd together and still get what they need. Vid cameras are a bit trickier.


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