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Swinney and Alexander in independence clash over creating jobs

THE Scottish and UK Governments will today do battle over jobs, including hundreds on the Clyde, as employment takes centre stage of the independence debate.

The SNP will attempt to regain the initiative when Finance Secretary John Swinney unveils plans to create jobs that will mean full employment in an independent Scotland.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander will announce 800 jobs have been safeguarded by last year's decision to build three Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels, at a cost of £348 million, on the Clyde.

Mr Fallon said UK warships "are only built in UK shipyards". He added: "This multi-million pound contract ... will benefit the dedicated workers of the Clyde."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the contract would "support hundreds of jobs in the region and make an important contribution to the wider UK economy."

Mr Swinney is expected to claim the goal of full employment is within the country's grasp "with the right policies". He will unveil a 10-point plan, including a pledge to create 30,000 modern apprenticeships by 2020, to improve upon the country's present employment rate of 73.3 per cent.

In addition to more apprenticeships, his proposals include tax breaks to attract companies to Scotland and assisting key industries, such as renewable energy.

Other pledges include the creation of a Scottish Business Development Bank to help finance start-up companies, and focusing an independent Scotland's proposed network of 70 to 90 embassies on boosting exports.

The plan also restates proposals to cut the rate of corporation tax, the main tax on business profits, by three per cent, and increase migration to Scotland.

Mr Swinney said: "Independence is not a magic wand but the plan we have published today shows how future governments of an independent Scotland could tailor economic policy to put job creation first and deliver a long-term employment boost.

"With the right policies in place we could achieve full employment, giving our businesses a competitive edge and incentives to create more and better jobs in Scotland."

Scotland's employment rate - the proportion of the working age population in a job - is 73.3 per cent, against the UK's 73.1.

The employment rate reached a post-devolution high of 74.9 per cent in 2006 but dipped below 70 per cent in 2010 when the recession bit deepest.

In Glasgow today, Mr Alexander will say the ships contract "continues over 200 years of tradition building the nation's leading ships on the Clyde".

The jobs battle between the Yes and No camps comes after a week First Minister Alex Salmond faced sustained pressure over his currency proposals for an independent Scotland.

But it seems doubtful the SNP will be able to move on from the currency row. No camp sources have cast doubt on the economic levers an independent Scotland would have under Mr Salmond's preferred currency union, which they say would leave the country with no power over key decisions such as interest rates.

An ICM poll yesterday put support for Yes at 35 per cent, unchanged from a previous poll in June, and No on 55 per cent, up one point, with nine per cent undecided. Stripping the don't-knows, the No camp led by 61 per cent to 39 per cent, the same headline figures as June.

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