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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 November 2007, 18:04 GMT
Plans to tackle economic growth
Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond said Scotland had a history of innovation
Scotland could be a "celtic lion" economy within a generation, but only as an independent nation, First Minister Alex Salmond has claimed.

He said the goal for his devolved government was limited to raising Scottish growth to UK levels.

Mr Salmond's comments came as he outlined his economic strategy.

But the UK government said the Scottish economic growth miracle in the Victorian period was because of the union, not despite it.

Launching his blueprint in Glasgow along with senior ministers, Mr Salmond said the Scottish economy had suffered from "decades of mediocrity".

Scottish people value the union because the last decade has delivered sustained growth
David Cairns
Scotland Office minister

The SNP government wants Scotland to match UK economic growth levels by 2011, while achieving the economic growth rate of small European independent nations by 2017.

Over the last 30 years, Mr Salmond said, Scotland's growth had averaged 1.8% - about half the average rate of growth for small European countries.

He said that while the strategy would enable his devolved powers to lift Scottish growth to the UK level, with independence Scotland could become a "celtic lion" to equal Ireland's so-called celtic tiger.

"We have a history and present reality of innovation, examples of educational excellence and individuals and companies succeeding in a competitive global market," said the first minister.

"But we need to set our sights much higher than we have delivered to date."

Public services

The 42-page economic plan set out a goal of narrowing the gap between Scotland's best and worst performing regions as well as measures to remove business rates from many small firms.

Scotland office minister David Cairns said it was "extraordinarily arrogant" to assert that Scotland would be independent within a decade.

"Scottish people value the union because the last decade has delivered sustained growth with record levels of investment in public services, and a record low in unemployment," he said.

"And even the first minister must accept that the Scottish economic miracle in the Victorian period was because of the union not despite it."

The growth plan came a day before the SNP administration was due to outline its first budget, amid what ministers claimed was the tightest financial Treasury settlement since devolution in 1999.

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