All in a night's work: Nick Clegg faces down HS2 critics and …
Nick Clegg is in Glasgow tonight, talking to CBI Scotland. Much of what he says is applicable across the whole UK, though. Here are some of the highlights:
At every step of the way, in the Coalition, we re fighting hard to create jobs, boost growth and make a genuine difference to people s lives across the UK.
That s why we ve committed to raise the personal allowance on income tax.
So that basic rate tax payers will get to keep all of the first 10, 000 they earn. We ve already taken over 2 million people out of paying income tax altogether. And by the time these changes are complete, they will be worth around 700 a year for over 20 million basic rate taxpayers.
We ve also extended our Funding for Lending Scheme to provide more help to SMEs.
And the latest figures show that under this scheme lending to businesses and homebuyers has increased. And ahead of the official launch of our new 1 billion UK Business Bank, we are already accepting proposals for the project s first investment round.
We re also protecting and boosting investments essential to our long-term growth. Setting out, for the first time, a long-term Infrastructure Strategy for 21st Century Britain, with a major boost to capital spend here in Scotland.
This is supporting a 100 million roll-out of superfast broadband to communities across Scotland; a 50 million contribution to safeguard and improve the cross-border sleeper service for Scotland; and an investment in faster, more modern electric trains on the East Coast Main Line.
That s in addition to our committed investment in a national High Speed Rail Network.
HS2 taking on the critics
The Core Cities Group estimates this investment will create around 400,000 new jobs, 70% of which will be based outside of London. And in Scotland, we calculate it will boost the economy by around 3 billion.
And here I just want to respond to those who have criticised this project in recent weeks. That includes the ex-Ministers who green-lighted this idea in the first place.
It s a pattern, we see happening time and time again in this country.
When a deal has been signed, the temptation to undermine it from the comfort of opposition can be too much for some politicians to resist. This clouds the debate and chips away at the consensus.
But the alternatives they suggest such as upgrading existing lines aren t viable answers. For example, the extra capacity created through the 9 billion upgrade of the West Coast Mainline has already been filled.
We ve tested our business case rigorously.
And we re clear on what needs to be done to deliver this project on time and to budget. That is how Britain builds the infrastructure it needs. And that s how we compete, as a 21st century economy, with a modern transport system that works to make us stronger.
The economic case for Scotland staying in the UK
Right now, membership of the UK s Single Market gives UK businesses unrestricted access to over 60 million consumers.
As set out in our business and microeconomic analysis paper, in 2011, that was worth around 45.5 billion in trade for Scotland (excluding oil and gas), that s double the amount Scottish businesses sell to the rest of the world. And the demand for Scottish goods and services from England, Wales and Northern Ireland contributes almost 30% of Scottish GDP. In turn the rest of the UK exports almost 50 billion worth of goods and services to Scotland.
Now I m not saying that all of this trade will be lost, if Scotland votes Yes in 2014.
I m not here to create an artificial argument. But our latest research shows that the long-term effect of a new border between our two countries with all of the new rules, regulations and systems it will require will reduce Scotland s GDP by 4 per cent, equivalent to 5 billion in 2012, over the next 30 years.
A no vote is not a vote for the status quo (and he actually says Home Rule this is a big deal)
But if Scotland votes No next year, this won t be the end of the story. A vote against leaving the UK family is a positive vote to remain within it and to be part of Scotland s evolving position within it.
We can t let this debate be set up as a false choice between separation, on the one hand, and a status quo set in tablets of stone, on the other.
Because the more pragmatic reality is and which business accepts is that nations must adapt and evolve.
Our manifesto hasn t been written yet, but I know that in 2015, the Liberal Democrats will be standing on a platform of further powers to the Scottish Parliament. And as Liberal Democrats, we will be working to build a consensus with the other political parties, as well as businesses and people across Scotland to deliver this.
Gladstone, Grimond, Steel, Kennedy and Campbell these are just some of the giants of my party who, down the years, have set the Scottish debate alight. And made a genuine, lasting difference.
The Liberal Democrat proposition protects the United Kingdom single market, one of the most important things for business.
A single currency; a single regulatory system; a single, open, free market.
With Home Rule we truly get the best of both worlds.
Local power and authority right alongside global clout, social equity and economic strength.