This week I will be travelling across the breadth and width of Scotland, from east to west and from north to south, talking to businesses and families about the issues that matter to them.
I will visit a range of companies, representing many of Scotland’s key sectors like life sciences, financial services, tourism, manufacturing and the creative industries.
I am certain that the one common thread which will emerge during my travels is this: the economy of Scotland is rich, diverse and prosperous, with huge and exciting opportunities ahead of us. But our present strength and our future potential come from the fact that we are – and I believe we should remain – part of the United Kingdom.
There’s little doubt that the UK and Scottish economies are recovering strongly. Scotland has now seen seven quarters of continuous growth. And that impressive performance is contributing to the strength of the UK economy: data released on Friday showed that the UK has grown by 3.2% in the past year.
This means that our economy is now recovering faster than all our major international competitors like the US, Germany, Japan or France.
What’s more, independent experts predict that the UK will continue to lead the pack over the rest of this year and grow faster than any other G7 nation.
With more economic growth we’re also seeing more jobs. Since 2010 some 1.8 million additional jobs have been created across the UK, as part of that there are almost 160,000 new jobs in Scotland.
There are now more Scots in work – some 2.6 million – than ever before.
The strength of our labour market means we can continue to reduce unemployment in Scotland, including among our young people: new data released last week showed the biggest fall in UK-wide youth unemployment since records began.
All the evidence shows that being part of the UK is helping Scotland’s economy grow and create jobs.
One reason for this is that Scottish companies do most of their trade with the rest of the UK.
Almost 70% of Scotland’s exports go to England, Wales and Northern Ireland – more than to the every other country in the world combined. As a single state, the UK shares common regulations and a bigger marketplace where people can move freely, all of this makes it far easier to do business.
Being part of the UK is also good for jobs. New analysis published last week showed that almost 270,000 jobs in Scotland – more than one in every ten jobs – is dependent on trade with the rest of the UK.
This includes 45,000 manufacturing jobs and 180,000 jobs in the services industries, all of which benefit from the larger single integrated market available as part of the UK.
Many of these jobs are in the key industrial sectors which I will be visiting over the coming week.
We have a top financial and professional services sector. We are world-leaders in renewable energy. Aberdeen is a global hub for oil and gas expertise. We have a state-of-the-art life sciences sector. We have a vibrant creative industries scene, concentrated around Dundee and Glasgow.
All these sectors are thriving precisely because Scotland benefits from the broad shoulders and economic stability that come from being part of the UK.
I am in no doubt that the ingenuity and hard-work of the Scottish people is one of our greatest assets – an asset that will yield even more success as part of the UK.
And that’s because the UK offers stability and strength, with certainty about our currency, better funded public services and safer savings and pensions.
And with a more powerful Scottish Parliament we can have the best of both worlds, so that we can find Scottish solutions to Scottish issues while remaining part of a stronger United Kingdom.
We should all be incredibly proud of everything Scotland has achieved. Let’s make sure that our children and grandchildren can be even more successful as part of the United Kingdom.