Economy

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What’s the fuss about austerity?
 
Is all the concern about austerity misplaced? The latest labour-market statistics published on Wednesday contained more good news. There was another increase in the employment rate, in both Scotland and the UK. Scotland’s 74.4% employment rate is at an all time high. The economic inactivity rate has fallen and is at a historic low.
 
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Income inequality in Scotland (and the UK) was low and stable throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The 1980s saw a significant increase in inequality, driven by a variety of factors. Deindustrialisation and technological change caused a fall in demand for many middle and lower-skilled occupations, and this combined with an erosion of trade union power and labour market deregulation led to a relative decline in wages at the lower end of the distribution. Financial deregulation and a reduction in top rates of income tax contributed to a rise in salaries at the upper end.
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Current discussions over the Scotland Bill have seen the Chancellor and SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson at loggerheads over the role of borrowing in national life. Gemma Tetlow of the Institute for Fiscal Studies discusses the approach of the two governments and their likely implications for taxation. 

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Talk of Scotland adopting a Scandinavian economic model usually comes with no mention of the bill but, suggests recent research, the impact of higher taxes is more complicated than it might at first appear. 
 
The Scottish Government holds up the Scandinavian economic model as one this country might emulate.
 
The focus is typically on the good news of more and better public services, with little comment on higher levels of taxation to pay for them.
 
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The suggestion by the SNP that success at the Westminster election provides a mandate for devolution of the National Minimum Wage may create some unexpected complications, says David Eiser.
 
The SNP believes that the scale of its victory at the General Election amounts to a mandate for the devolution of further powers (beyond those recommended by the Smith process) to the Scottish Parliament. In particular, they have called for devolution of powers over the minimum wage, both in their election manifesto and in subsequent announcements.
 
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David Comerford discusses the latest IFS analysis of Scottish Government finances under so-called full fiscal autonomy. How did the SNP respond to these figures?

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Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century was an improbable blockbuster. Dense with data and dotted with equations, it took the 2008-9 financial crisis, the subsequent austerity measures and growing concerns about rising inequality to propel this weighty work to the top of the bestsellers lists. However, it provides a useful backdrop to the general election and the parties’ approaches to wealth. 
 
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