Scotland's new First Minister has pledged to "dedicate every fibre" to delivering economic growth for Scotland, but said UK government policies were preventing the country from realising its full potential.

Speaking ahead of attending the ground-breaking of the new Ardersier Port on Monday, John Swinney said economic growth with a "clear social purpose" would enable government investment in public services, fairer wages, and the eradication of child poverty.

Mr Swinney also said that while his government would "use every tool at its disposal" to maximise growth, an end to the UK government's austerity programme would be required if Scotland is to realise its full economic potential.

He said: "My government will support business and economic growth - not for its own sake, but for a clear social purpose. It is the outcomes of growth which will deliver public funding we can invest in public services like the NHS and schools and ultimately create a fairer society.

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"It is vital that benefits of economic growth are felt right across Scotland - and equally, it is vital that all of Scotland contributes to our economic success. I want to see every aspect of our economy and society working together to achieve the best economic outcomes for Scotland."

Mr Swinney said that Scotland was "blessed with extraordinary natural resources, a skilled workforce, innovative companies and world-leading universities" and called on these to "unite to work together in a national mission to drive economic growth for the benefit of all".

However, he cautioned that the UK government's "austerity agenda" was holding Scotland's economy back, and said he would continue to push for independence.

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He said: "The failed austerity agenda pursued by the Conservatives for 14 years - and now supported by Labour - is continuing to hold Scotland's economy back, and as First Minister I will continue to make the case for a change in approach and for these powers to be in Scotland's hands through independence. But I will also use every tool at the Scottish government's disposal to maximise economic growth now.

"With an economy working to its full potential, public services would get the investment they need to thrive, workers would receive fair pay and no longer be struggling with the cost of living and not a single child in Scotland would be forced to live in poverty.

"That is the goal my government is aiming for as we seek to drive economic growth, and that is what I will dedicate every fibre of my being to achieving as First Minister."

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Monday, Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government had a “strong track record” of economic growth under the SNP, adding that recent slowdowns were as a result of the pandemic and Liz Truss’ mini budget in 2022, which increased the cost of borrowing and inflation.

“What I’ve got to do, what Kate Forbes, the Economy Secretary will be doing, and Mairi McAllan, the Net Zero Secretary, will be doing is making sure that we line up all of our economic interventions to support the growth agenda,” he said.

“That means making sure that our investment in skills and infrastructure, in the decision-making processes of Government – on planning for example, energy consenting – is done in an efficient and effective way to make sure that Scotland can be a magnet for investment.”

Asked if the Scottish Government had not been “efficient” in recent years in its decision-making, the First Minister said: “We’ve just got to make sure that we tighten up our act and make sure that we demonstrate to investors that Scotland is a place that wants to attract investment and deliver investments quickly.”

The Government, he added, must ensure Scotland is “well positioned” to bring in private sector investment.

The oil and gas sector – which is believed to support thousands of jobs in Scotland – is “very significant” to Scotland, Mr Swinney added.

While the country and the industry has to “face the realities” of the impact of fossil fuels on the climate, the First Minister added: “We’ve got to deliver that transition to net zero, we’ve got to support the oil and gas sector to undertake that transition.

“So all of the steps that we take have got to be about minimising economic disruption to the communities and sectors that are dependent on oil and gas.”

Asked if he supported the presumption against new oil and gas licences backed by his predecessor Humza Yousaf, Mr Swinney refused to say, but claimed the long-awaited energy strategy would “set out our thinking” and would be published “over the next few months”.

The transition to net zero, he said, has to be done “with great care”, given the sector is “significant to the Scottish economy” and “attracts significant investment and wealth into the Scottish economy”.

Responding to the First Minister's comments, Scottish Labour economy spokesperson Daniel Johnson said: "It is simply not credible that John Swinney has suddenly discovered the importance of economic growth after 17 years of this incompetent and economically illiterate SNP government.

"Under the SNP, Scotland's economy is flatlining and our vast potential is being squandered. This chaotic and divided party is incapable of delivering for the people of Scotland.

"From cutting cost-of-living support during the cost-of-living crisis to slashing the housing budget during a homelessness crisis, it is clear that the SNP's priorities are not those of the people of Scotland."