The First Minister (Alex Salmond):
The Ernst & Young survey is one of many substantial and encouraging reports that were released this week in terms of the Scottish economy. It shows that Scotland was once again the top-performing area of the United Kingdom outside London for foreign direct investment in 2013, with the number of projects reaching a 16-year high. That is intensely encouraging news. It contrasts, of course, with the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer some three years ago, when he warned Scotland that the debate on the constitution would put off foreign direct investment. Now we know that foreign direct investment is surging in Scotland, and now we know that this exceptional achievement has been achieved by Scottish Development International. Perhaps that is one part of the scaremongering armoury of Better Together that will finally be put to bed.
I thank the First Minister for that response. Of course, we welcome the 16-year high. Does the First Minister agree that the continued dominance of London, as was perhaps suggested in the Ernst & Young statement, risks overshadowing the rest of the UK and that the only way forward for an economic, prosperous Scotland in the future, and to put Scotland first, is to vote yes?
The First Minister:
It is certainly true that the independent research from Ernst & Young shows that Scotland has a greater share of projects, not just in terms of our average and not just second only to London across the UK, but in terms of key areas—research and development and manufacturing. A very substantial percentage of our inward investments last year were in those key areas, which helps to shape the Scottish economy for the future.I really do think that the Opposition parties should bear this in mind. It is not that long since they were repeating the claims of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that inward investment and investment in the Scottish economy would be deterred by the constitutional debate. Now that we have the figures not for one year but over the past three years, will they finally move away from scaremongering and instead embrace the success in the Scottish economy and salute the progress of Scottish Development International and our other agencies?