LONDON, April 5 Scotland's economy slowed
sharply last year, trailing the rest of the United Kingdom by
the biggest margin in six years, official data showed on
Wednesday, just days after Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon
called for a fresh independence vote.
Scots voted by 55 percent to 45 percent in 2014 to stay part
of the United Kingdom, but Sturgeon said last week that there
should be a new referendum within the next two years now that
Britain plans to leave the European Union.
Most Scots opposed leaving the EU in June 2016's Brexit
vote, and on Wednesday Scotland's government blamed negative
sentiment after the referendum and a slowdown in the global oil
industry for the recent hefty economic underperformance.
Economic growth in Scotland fell to 0.4 percent last year
from 2.1 percent in 2015, the sharpest slowdown since 2009 and
in marked contrast to the United Kingdom as a whole, where the
economy grew by 1.8 percent.
The gap between UK and Scottish growth is now the widest
"We have already seen significantly lower consumer
confidence in Scotland since the vote last summer. Now we see
that feeding through into our growth figures," said the Scottish
government's finance secretary, Derek Mackay.
Growth in Scotland was weak even before June's vote. The
economy did not expand at all in the first three months of 2016,
before seeing 0.1 percent growth in each of the next two
quarters, before shrinking in the last three months of the year.
Mackay also highlighted the effect of a weaker oil industry.
Wednesday's data does not include North Sea oil revenue, but
does include Scottish companies onshore that service the sector.
The Confederation of British Industry - a business lobby
which forecast negative economic consequences from both Brexit
and Scottish independence - said Scotland's nationalist-led
government should focus on tax reform and improving schools.
"Businesses are facing increased uncertainty and rising cost
pressures, which has resulted in a number of recent closures and
potential job cuts affecting hundreds of people across
Scotland," CBI official Hugh Aitken said.
"The Scottish Government should therefore prioritise ...
improving education attainment and setting a competitive tax
regime," he added.
(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)