Parliaments in London and Edinburgh should hand more powers to the north-east and Highlands to help rebuild from the economic damage of the pandemic, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar says.
He warned sectors including the oil industry and rural economy had been in difficulty before Covid struck.
“It’s partly about pushing power and resources out from parliaments and into nations and regions, and how we double that devolution in Scotland by pushing that power and resource out of Holyrood,” Mr Sarwar said.
The Glasgow MSP said a “green recovery” should also protect jobs in a “just transition” to protect livelihoods in areas such as oil and gas.
Mr Sarwar said there is a feeling the economy of Scotland is geared to the central belt and called for powers in “regional hubs” to let councils act as “driving forces” for local economies.
He said: “Take the Highlands – why should it be a parliamentarian sitting in Glasgow, going to a parliament that sits in Edinburgh, decides what is right for local people in terms of investment in the local economy?”
Mr Sarwar was speaking at his first live press conference and Q&A on Monday morning, hoping to set out a clear economic pitch one day before the Holyrood budget.
His plan was blunted by a deal struck between the Greens and SNP moments before his speech began.
SNP ‘picked cheapest option’
Greens boasted they secured Covid-19 relief payments of up to £130 for low-income families as well as two instalments of £100 each in August and December for families with children eligible for free school meals.
A pay increase for public sector workers amounts to around £800, or 4%, for those earning under £25,000, 2% for those between £25,000 and £49,000 and 1% above that.
Mr Sarwar claimed the SNP had picked the “cheapest” option with the Greens. However, Scottish Labour will also back the budget if it includes an increase in social care workers’ pay to £12 per hour, rising to £15 in the next parliament.
Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green Party co-convener, said: “This year’s budget cements the impact the Scottish Greens have had on Scotland’s priorities over the last five years.
“From fairer taxes to local services, we’ve shown every year that Green MSPs will get things done to build a fairer and greener Scotland.”