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Industry Minister Henry McLeish
"The debate has lacked any overall direction"
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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Minister labels debate 'shallow'
Factory view
The report aims to ensure a "joined up" strategy
The debate over Scotland's economic policies has been "shallow and minimal", Industry Minister Henry McLeish has admitted.

He was speaking as he published a detailed 10-year plan, which has taken six months to produce, and promises to reinvigorate Scotland's economy.

Mr McLeish told BBC Scotland that key strategies such as social inclusion could not operate in isolation from "sound economics".

The document stresses that private enterprises will be the main driving force in the "new" economy, with the Scottish Executive being seen to promote and facilitate development.

Our approach to economic policy has been too piecemeal for far too long

Henry McLeish
The key aim is to help boost Scotland's international competitiveness while ensuring that sustainable economic gains are spread across regional and social divisions.

Mr McLeish said: "Our approach to economic policy has been too piecemeal for far too long.

"Often the debate has been shallow, it has been minimal, and it has lacked any overall direction.

"What I want to see is a vigorous debate about the Scottish economy. We have set out our objectives in our report.

'Tory criticism'

"That will allow the business community and government to make a much more focussed contribution to Scotland.

The Scottish Conservatives' economic spokeswoman, Annabel Goldie MSP, said the document failed to provide measurable targets:

"Although the initial concept is sound, it is imperative that we avoid the high sounding words and generalisations that are scattered so liberally throughout this document.

"There is real danger of this entire exercise turning into meaningless mush.

"For all the executive's warm words, the greatest concern faced by Scotland's businesses today is the imposition of a high tax burden and a high regulatoryregime."

The launch comes a day after it was revealed that 35m is to be taken out of Scotland's health budget because it has not been spent.

The admission was made by Finance Minister Jack McConnell as Health Minister Susan Deacon announced an extra 8m for more than 300 new specialist medical staff.

Mr McLeish added: "We want to make sure that what the government is spending is co-ordinated, is joined up."

Ministers will subject their departmental spending to rigorous scrutiny to guarantee the most economically productive approach.

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