EDINBURGH, July 5 (Reuters) - Scotland’s economy grew at its fastest pace in more than two years in early 2017 and outpaced overall economic growth in Britain as a whole, helped by the return to production of a steel plant, official data showed on Wednesday.
The Scottish economy expanded by a quarterly 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2017, faster than growth of 0.2 percent in Britain as a whole and a sharp reversal from a contraction of 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter.
The figures were pushed up by a 3.1 percent jump in industrial production, helped by the recovery of output at the Dalzell steel plate mill in Motherwell, which was bought by Liberty Steel from Tata Steel last year.
Wednesday’s figures also showed a rise in output in industries linked to the North Sea oil and gas industry which Scotland’s government said showed growing confidence in a sector that has slowed in recent years.
Scotland’s economy has generally underperformed the British economy because of its dependence on oil and gas.
In annual terms, Scotland’s economy grew by 0.7 percent, slower than growth of 1.8 percent in Britain’s economy.
Scotland’s devolved government recently shelved plans to push for a new referendum on independence from the UK.
Support for secession among voters stands at around 45 percent, according to opinion polls, and how well or badly the economy fares is one the key drivers of separatist sentiment. (Reporting by William Schomberg and Elisabeth O‘Leary, editing by Andy Bruce and Susan Thomas)