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Scotland to 'strengthen links with Spain'

Mon 13th Sep 2010

Scotland's first Minister, Alex Salmond, has flown to Bilbao in an attempt to strengthen links between Scotland and the Basque Country.

He is expected to hold a seies of meetings intended to develop the relationship between the two 'countries' and to encourage further inward investment.

The Minister said ow hScotland could learn from the Basque Country, which is currently the most industrious region in Spain.

Before embarking on his trip, Mr Salmond commented "Scotland has long-standing links with the Basque Country and we are keen to build on this relationship and learn from this successful European region.

"It is worth noting that during the financial crisis, the Basque Country outperformed Spain as a whole, and during 2009 the Basque economy contracted by -3.3% compared to -3.6% in the rest of Spain."

The First Minister will undertake a programme of ministerial engagements including a meeting with Iberdrola, the Spanish energy company and owner of ScottishPower, to discuss further business opportunities.

He is also expected to meet with banking executives from BBVA and Santander.

Meanwhile, the Financial Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, Jeremy Purvis, questioned the validity of Mr Salmond's tri.

"Official Basque Government figures show that the region has had lower GDP growth in 2010 than Scotland, lower economic activity than Scotland, unemployment rates are considerably higher than Scotland and inflation is running higher than in the Scottish economy.

"If the Basque country is the example we should be following right now, then Salmond's economic judgement is as sound as his political judgement over the last week concerning independence" Mr Purvis said.

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