Support the development of Enterprise Parks attached to university campuses
Establish a national infrastructure strategy for Scotland, with particular regard to transport and telecommunications links
Re-focus the efforts of Locate in Scotland to pursue inward investment where the business is at the upper end of technology and can support or be supported by local businesses
Give more support to the new start-up scheme for local businesses
Support Scottish exporters by pressurising the Labour Government at Westminster to join the Euro
Boost the rural economy by protecting rural shops, tackling high petrol prices and reforming the Common Agricultural Policy
Scotland has huge natural assets, not least our tradition of enterprise and innovation. Yet our economy has performed far too erratically. We have too many low-skilled operations which make us vulnerable to the vagaries of world markets. There is a lack of long-term planning and we have failed to develop suffciently our home-based industries.
At present key sections of our economy face crisis. Manufacturing industry has been in recession for over six months. The oil industry has been badly hit by the fall in world oil prices. Many jobs have been lost in agriculture in the past year.
We need to develop long-term solutions to these problems. We must ensure that the Scottish people have the skills to equip them for the 21st century. We must tackle the unemployment blackspots created by the decline of manufacturing, as well as the severe problems facing our rural areas. We must strengthen Scottish-owned enterprises. We must increase sustainable economic development. We must target opportunities for significant tourism development in Scotland.
The new Parliament should prove an enormous boost to Scotland's economy. We need to make sure that it co-ordinates its efforts effectively with Westminster, local councils and the EU.
Scotland's Government should look to the long-term needs of the economy and work in partnership with business, not at cross-purposes with it. Our plans for boosting investment in public services and infrastructure, promoting small businesses and encouraging energy conservation, will create thousands of jobs. However the greatest requirement to secure our future prosperity is to increase the skills and innovation of the Scottish people.
Establish a Ministry for Education and Enterprise. This will ensure that education and training relate to the needs of business and enterprise and build on Scotland's reputation for inventiveness and innovation. We must ensure that our school pupils are given a basic understanding of business and commerce. We will invest in high quality education and aim in particular to raise the standard of science and engineering in schools and colleges.
Build on Scottish Enterprise's Technology Ventures and the Scottish Technology Fund. This will help to develop the commercial potential of academic research and discoveries. We will support the development of enterprise parks attached to university campuses.
Reinforce links between colleges and local firms to develop appropriate training schemes.
Work with colleges to promote a modern apprenticeship system to combine study and on-the-job training.
Establish a prestigious award scheme for scientific and technological achievement.
Establish a Scottish Economic Development Strategy.
Retain Scottish Enterprise and Highlands
& Islands Enterprise to provide the framework for a long term economic strategy.
We will review the operation of local enterprise companies to promote greater openness, accountability and effectiveness. We will ask Audit Scotland to devise appropriate output indicators to measure the effectiveness of local enterprise companies.
Establish a national infrastructure strategy for Scotland, with particular regard to transport and telecommunications links.
Boost small business start ups.
In consultation with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, we will set targets for new company start-up and survival rates, investment in transport infrastructure and other key economic developments. We will set up a task force to identify products which could be manufactured in Scotland under licence.
Re-focus the efforts of Locate in Scotland. We want to pursue inward investment where the business is at the upper end of technology and can support or be supported by local businesses.
Support small and medium-sized businesses. The Education and Enterprise Depadment will have a special focus for small business. We will target assistance on small firms in order meet our objectives for new business start-ups. We will encourage local Business Support Networks and one-stop Business Advice Shops to help businesses obtain advice and funding. We will strive to develop new sources of seed-corn funding. We will ensure that government does not discriminate against small and medium-sized firms in its purchasing policy
Cut red tape. In implementing all Scottish, UK and European legislation, we will work closely with businesses to cut red tape and minimise bureaucracy.
The creation of the new Parliament will, in itself, promote Scotland and attract more visitors.
We will boost Scottish tourism by protecting and marketing Scotland's natural, built and cultural heritage, with a Minister responsible for tourism in the
Education and Enterprise Ministry and with a Tourism Committee of Parliament. In particular we will encourage the off-season, short-break and niche markets.
We want to see responsibility for the international promotion of tourism firmly resting with the Scottish Tourist Board. To ensure better long term planning, funding to area tourist boards should be secured and channelled through the Scottish Tourist Board. We would require area tourist boards, in co-operation with local tourist industries, councils and the local and national enterprise agencies, to bring forward rolling three-year development plans to promote tourism within their area.
Scotland's influence at Westminster
Some key economic issues will continue to be determined at Westminster.
Scottish Liberal Democrats will press for:
An early target date for entry into the European Single Currency, subject to a referendum. A firm commitment to entry would help bring interest rates down, make Sterling more competitive, and thus help Scotland's hard-pressed businesses and exporters.
The Bank of England to become a UK Reserve Bank. We will ensure there is a place on the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee for a member selected by the Scottish Executive and approved by the Scottish Parliament.
A simpler and fairer tax system, including higher VAT thresholds.
A stable and fair tax regime for the oil and gas industries.
We want to end the uncertainties created by the present Government.
The rural economy
Our rural areas are in crisis. As farm incomes plummet, the fishing industry continues to undergo a period of considerable uncertainty and returns for the timber industry have fallen. The small local industries and shops which depend on agriculture, forestry and fisheries also suffer. Traditional rural industries like textiles are also under threat. Meanwhile small communities have lost schools, bus services and post offices. A Scottish Parliament, closer to the people of Scotland than Westminster, can and must act decisively to reverse this decline.
Establish a Department of Rural Affairs. The Department will spearhead the strategy for recovery to develop a vibrant and diverse rural economy. We will ensure that no government policies neglect the needs of rural communities.
Insist that the Scottish Rural Affairs Minister, whenever appropriate, takes the lead UK role in European Council meetings.
Protect rural services.
These include village schools, community hospitals, post offices, village shops and bus routes. We will ensure that there is adequate and affordable housing.
Review petrol pricing, and tackle overcharging by petrol companies. We will encourage further rates relief for local petrol stations so as to keep prices down.
Farming and forestry
Recognise the tremendous potential to grow the Scottish food and drink industries. We shall consult with interested groups to establish a new Scottish food promotion body which can identify opportunities, and realise the potential of the Scottish brand.
Use all meat promotion levies currently raised in Scotland to promote Scottish meat produce.
We will support the introduction of a Food Standards Agency, with a developed arm account-able to the Scottish Parlia-ment, to boost confidence in the safety and quality of produce.
We will abolish the flat rate levy on Scottish food premises to fund the Agency.
Require new supermarkets to promote local produce. We will introduce new planning rules which would allow planning authorities to stipulate minimum shelf-space for local produce when granting planning permission to major new retail outlets. Labelling should also identify country of origin.
End the ban on beef-on-the-bone. We will take other steps to support the recovery of the beef industry to restore the reputation of this vital Scottish business.
Introduce an independent appeal procedure to deal with disputes over penalties imposed for alleged inaccuracies in offcial returns and claim forms.
Establish a "Farming Connect" network to provide a one-stop-shop for all farming business advice.
Press for further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
We want to encourage Countryside Management Contrads and direct support towards sustaining rural communities.
Retain public control of forestry and set targets for new planting.
Work to conserve and rebuild sustainable fish stocks and protect the livelihoods of local fishing communities. We will work in Europe to scrap the existing Common Fisheries Policy and replace it with a system based on regional management of fish stocks and the involvement of both fishermen and scientists in establishing annual allowable catches.
Encourage the development of locally managed fisheries through the use of regulating orders within the six-mile limit.
Encourage investment in the further scientific and technical development of Scotland's aquaculture industries, emphasising environmental considerations.
Continue to press for an end of the Crown Estate's right to levy a production tax on the aquaculture industry.
We will also work to stop farmed salmon being dumped on the European market.
Reform land tenure by abolishing the relics of the feudal land system.
Establish a land bank to provide long-term finance for land purchase.
Introduce term tenancies of a minimum of 15 years to replace landlord/tenant partnership agreements.
Give tenants a right of pre-emption if the holding is placed on the market.
Help local councils and community groups to acquire land where it is in the public interest
Protect the rights of crofters and give young people more opportunities to set up crofts.
Legislate to implement the proposals of the Access Forum.
Establish a Standing Commission on Land Use and Ownership to review the progress of our reforms.