Sturgeon attacks austerity Britain, commits Scotland to EU

Scotland's First Minister, and leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon (Reuters / Russell Cheyne)
The First Minister of Scotland has used her initial post-election speech to condemn further proposed spending cuts under the new majority Conservative administration and oppose a British exit from the EU.

Speaking in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon pledged Scotland’s support for the UK’s membership of the European Union, and unveiled the Scottish Business Pledge, which aims to foster “fairness, equality and sustainable economic growth.”

She also emphasized alternatives to austerity, saying the new Westminster administration was bound to either make fewer cuts or hand over more economic power to Scotland.

There is clearly an opportunity to ensure that Scotland’s priorities are better understood. But there is also a significant challenge in working with a majority government at Westminster – many of whose policies we disagree with,” she said.

We will continue to oppose spending reductions of the scale and speed that the UK government has suggested. These would slow economic recovery and make deficit reduction more difficult – something shown by the impact of the cuts imposed after 2010.”

READ MORE: Cameron must deliver on Scottish devolution pledges, says Sturgeon

The First Minister also championed British inclusion in the EU, saying she wanted to introduce a “double lock” system – where all four nations comprising the UK must agree to a ‘Brexit’ – to ensure that Scotland is not forced out of the EU against its will.

And during the run up to the referendum, the Scottish government will of course make a strong and positive case for staying in the EU,” she added.

The speech focused on the unveiling of the Scottish Business Pledge, which Sturgeon described as a “progressive” code for employers to promote fairness and community engagement.

There is a large body of credible evidence that shows progressive workplace practices, like workforce engagement, taking an active role in the community and investing in innovation, benefit companies through increased productivity, enhanced employee commitment and improved reputation,” she said.

With the living wage at its core, the pledge covers issues such as zero hours contracts, investing in young people, pursuing innovation and internationalization and progressing diversity. Companies can now make their Scottish Business Pledge to demonstrate their commitment to these values and to delivering them through future plans.”

READ MORE: #TakeUsWithYouScotland: 1000s in N. England sign petition to join 'future independent Scotland'

The Scottish Business Pledge should become a badge of pride for Scottish business, sending a clear signal to employees, customers, the supply chain and the wider community that companies have strong growth ambitions and acknowledge their contribution to creating a fairer society,” she added.

Levels of Scottish unemployment rose by 19,000 in the first quarter of 2015, with the Bank of Scotland’s Labour Monitor down from 59.1 to 60.6; the lowest reading in 22 months.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland program, Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said Sturgeon was bringing government and business together.

“This has been described by the First Minister as a shared national endeavor and I think that’s exactly how we should look at this – government and business coming together.

“My priority is to get people into employment and then to make sure that as much of that employment as possible is high quality, productive employment, making a high-value contribution to our society.”