Osborne says deficit payback slower than expected as doubt falls on the readiness of Scotland’s ‘shovel ready’ projects

UK Chancellor George Osborne told Andrew Marr on BBC One this morning that, while the government is making headway in paying down the country’s deficit – now down b y 25% -  economic conditions will make it a longer process than expected.

The Office for National Statistics [ONS] has shown that the UK’s public sector net borrowing was higher in October 2012 than in October 2011. Nevertheless, a week ago the ONS showed the UK economy still grew by 1% in the third quarter of 2012, following a nine month recession.

Mr Osborne said this morning that although the rate of paydown was not what had been planned, it was necessary to stick with this approach to recovery.

This is, of course, the matter at most dispute with the Labour Shadow Chancellor and others, including Scotland’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney.

Labour’s Ed Balls,  sticking to the position he adopted in the early days of the coalition government’s inheritance of the financial disaster bequeathed by the series of Labour administrations, continues to advocate spending our way out of trouble.

This is not as irresponsible as it might seem. If this spending were restricted to major infrastructural projects – for which our borrowing would have to rise further rather than fall – it is arguable that the economic  stimulus it would provide to businesses and workers might accelerate economic growth and enable faster paydown of the debt  burden.

On the other hand, it is also arguable that this hypothetical growth would not be at a rate that could support the paydown of both the current and the extended debt.

John Swinney has consistently argued along the same lines as Mr Balls and, in a of transparent political opportunism with the independence referendum due in October 2014, has confronted Mr Osborne with a list of the tediously named ‘shovel ready’ projects Scotland wants him to fund in his Autumn Budget statement in the coming week.

Of course this is not going to happen and of course Westminster can yet again be portrayed as wilfully keeping Scotland back.

However, information of concern emerged this week, casting doubt on the meaning and readiness of ‘shovel ready’.

The Institute of Civil Engineers – who should know – warned that many of Scotland’s infrastructural plans – s0me part of the Scottish Government’s 20 year development plan, would be unable to go ahead for lack of qualified engineers. They noted that the dualling of the A9 and the building of the high speed rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh could not proceed without more trained engineers.

The issue here relates to our national education policy, where we note that the release earlier this week of the detail of the Post-16 Education [Scotland] Bill betrayed a fundamental intellectual and strategic weakness.

This Bill lumps in one piece of proposed legislation all post-16 education [via universities and colleges] as a single issue matter while, for today’s world, its demands and challenges and the most serious problem we face – youth unemployment, it is necessary to conceive of very distinctive sectors of education and training leading from, if not before,  the post-16 watershed.

The single issue that this evidences and that gives greatest concern about the current Scottish Government is its failing competence.

What the country is seeing is what was in any case a very small and shallow pool of talent reaching its limitations, while the very few with adequate ability, including the First Minister, are exhausted with the effort of constant covering to keep the show on the road and are manifestly starting to lose focus and direction.

Education is the key to so much of what lames us – but it will take strategic vision, radicalism, courage and grasp of detail and consequence at a level that is not manifest anywhere in the Scottish Government, including in the First Minster – or elsewhere in the Scottish Parliament.

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17 Responses to Osborne says deficit payback slower than expected as doubt falls on the readiness of Scotland’s ‘shovel ready’ projects

  1. The idea of spending our way out of trouble through capital investment certainly isn’t necessarily a bad one when considered in principle. However the major obstacle to it appears to be the public sector’s seemingly consistent inability to manage capital projects and programmes effectively. Everyone knows the horror stories about the budget overruns such as Holyrood however that is just one of many within Scotland with other good examples being the Beetson Oncology Unity, new SASA Headquarters and the National Galleries of Scotland Playfair project (and many others). Furthermore, bubbling underneath these high profile ones, are a myriad of lower value capital projects being, managed at local authority level where capital slippage at a material value is seen as the norm and continues year on year.

    There are a number of things that public sector bodies need to do better regarding capital projects and a list of them would go on for quite a while however what they all boil down to is a more professional, comprehensive and competent approach to project management.

    Capital projects can indeed reinvigorate economic growth, especially in areas of high unemployment and a disproportionate availability of skilled tradesmen however uncertainty in timing and poor planning can be equally detrimental.

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  2. Osbourne’s misguided plan to stick to the plan A isn’t even succeeding to do what he claims … deficit will never get paid off …. UK needs a more integrated approach with investment in useful projects outside favoured areas rather than the tory cut everything & spend on unwanted + unnecessary projects madness

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  3. I would think that any significant improvement to the A83, Rest and Be Thankful, would also offer employment and engineering opportunities. How long have the SNP government had to get this project shovel ready – 7 years?

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  4. My suspicions have been confirmed that you are part of the scorched earth policy of the Unionist establishment. Undermine everything about the worth of the Scottish Parliament and you suck any vestige of self confidence from the Scottish people.

    Scotland deserves better from it’s opinion formers who state that we are incapable as a nation to emulate others with fewer assets than we have.

    I’ve got news for you : this time a positive message will prevail because the last seventy years of the Union as been one failure after another.

    You will fail because a positive message will prevail. What is it in the Scottish psyche suggest

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    • “You will fail because a positive message will prevail.”

      Words you just used:
      fail
      suspicions
      failure
      suck
      incapable
      scorced earth policy
      undermine

      Hmmm..

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    • Yes Simon, so confident are the Scottish people that they are content to see themselves as unfit, unworthy or unable to govern ourselves, couldn’t make it up!
      “I like being part of the UK as well”
      Being part of the UK, as a citizen of Scotland, to me, means an acceptance of anonimity in the wider scheme of things, subserviance, subordinance, call it what you will. Being part of the UK? it’s no for me.
      Well said Graeme McCormick, such submissive, apathetic attitudes of many in this fine country have become an accepted and unchallenged state of mind, a malaise almost.
      “Education is the key to so much of what lames us – but it will take strategic vision, radicalism, courage and grasp of detail and consequence at a level that is not manifest anywhere in the Scottish Government, including in the First Minster – or elsewhere in the Scottish Parliament”
      Newsroom – So strategic vision, courage, radicalism, a grasp of detail and consequence are qualities, and attributes the cream of Scotland’s Holyrood politicians are devoid of?. Is this dearth due to the brain drain, those ‘elite’ Scottish born politicians off to Westminster wishing to serve the interests of a collection of nations, putting their careers before what should be their primary efforts towards the success of the country they were born and initially educated in?
      Personally, I wouldn’t say our Scottish Govt. or Scottish Parliament lack in the vision, radicalism or courage department, certainly no less than that lot in Westminster.

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  5. Jnr Tick “Being part of the UK, as a citizen of Scotland, to me, means an acceptance of anonimity in the wider scheme of things, subserviance, subordinance” well if you have an inferiority complex there’s nowt I can do about that.

    Try and have a nice day :)

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  6. I find it ironic that at a time when SOME of Scotland’s people are thinking of independence our closest neighbours are considering greater ties with the UK. The good folks of Ireland are playing with the idea of having the pound as their currency if they have to either leave the Euro or it goes belly up.

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  7. Hi Jamie, no inferiority complex here my friend. I, like those who share views such as mine see ourselves as not being superior or indeed inferior, just concerned and ill-served, that’s all but maybe we should just shut up and put up?.
    It’s always a very convenient retort (as well as belittling) to accuse people who are genuinely proud to live here and be known as Scottish of having inferiority complexes.
    If convenience is your thing Jamie maybe thats with hanging arround burger joints to long, “you too have a nice day”

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  8. Whoa!!

    Just a minute there Jnr Tick it was YOU who said “Being part of the UK, as a citizen of Scotland, to me, means an acceptance of anonimity in the wider scheme of things, subserviance, subordinance”

    You then invited us to “call it what you will”

    I called your pathetic posturing an inferiority complex.

    As a proud confident Scot sorry I just don’t feel the need to define myself, or compare myself, to my fellow cirtizens in England, or Wales or NI. Neither do I think we are ill served by being members of the UK.

    This might come as a surprise to you JnR but not everything that is wrong in our country is the fault of the UK. ;)

    Although I do recognise the English in particular are a convenient scapegoat for those Scots who really feel the need to blame somebody else…. :)

    ps Who is Jamie ??

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    • I’m perfectly well Simon and thanks for your unexpected concern, heart warming indeed. Although on holiday for a week my computer and I part company from time to time, I’ll try and reply immediately next time.

      Just a wee mix up with names, apologies for this, however, it was your comment which troubled me enough to post my opinions, just to clear that up.

      “pathetic posturing” Never been accused of posturing before, a first definately.

      If my responding in the manner I did to your post of “I like confident Scottish people”"I like being part of the UK as well” is defined as posturing then this is your interpretation, certainly absolutely no posturing intended, speaking my mind maybe. I do appreciate that you have taken the time to explain why you believed it to be so, even though I most definately disagree.

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  9. Aha, now we have it.

    As a foil to folks choosing to support Scottish independence we now have comment infering that the Republic of Ireland is considering re-joining the Union with Great Britain.

    Now good international relations with our neighbours is one thing, but I don’t really think anyone could really suggest that the republic of ireland wants to restablish a union with the UK.

    Indeed, at the expense of being pejorative, will the next comment of this nature be that the Republic of Ireland are considering one of the following as their new National Anthem……..The Sash, No Surrender or God Save the Queen.

    Hope not, but the standard of many a comment in support of the Union is about as daft as the foregoing, and it is less than helpful.

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    • *”As a foil to folks choosing to support Scottish independence we now have comment infering that the Republic of Ireland is considering re-joining the Union with Great Britain.”*

      That is NOT what Easdale Resident said at all !

      He/She commented that Eire may consider using GBP if the Euro collapsed.

      Your post was typical cybernat spin and it does your “cause” absolutely no good.

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