ANYONE looking for an objective, constructive or valuable appraisal of the Scottish economy can most certainly avoid wasting their time digesting the outpourings from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer last week.

Sir Keir, visiting German engineering giant Siemens’ site at Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire during a trip north of the Border, was very big indeed on politics and bereft of substance as he opined on the Scottish economy.

There was the usual flannel about Scotland’s great history, but mostly an attempt to paint a doomsayer-style picture of the Scottish economy over roughly the last decade-and-a-half.

This timescale seemed somewhat convenient – given the thrust of what Sir Keir had to say appeared all about blaming the SNP for the troubles which the Labour leader perceives in the Scottish economy.

And there was nothing in what Sir Keir had to say which signalled he had any kind of expertise on the topic. Indeed, he did not even seem particularly well-briefed.

There also appeared to be a lack of recognition by Sir Keir of which powers are devolved, and which are not, when it comes to the big things which dictate how the Scottish economy performs. Or at least a refusal to factor this crucial reality into his narrative.

It seemed incredible that Sir Keir was happy to focus on delivering woolly comments painting a picture of a Scottish economy failed by the SNP, while managing to ignore the huge damage caused to Scotland and the UK as a whole by the Conservatives’ failed austerity programme.

His reasoning on the Scottish economy was far from convincing. There was a somewhat throwaway remark about business start-up failure rates. Sir Keir did not mention Scotland’s huge success on the inward investment front.

Accountancy firm EY’s latest annual survey published last May showed Scotland outpaced UK-wide progress on inward investment dramatically in 2021. EY declared Scotland had made “great strides” as a destination for FDI in 2021, as its survey revealed the nation’s attractiveness rating from potential future investors had hit a record.

And EY Scotland managing partner Ally Scott declared: “Our findings suggest the outlook for Scotland’s FDI is exceptionally bright.”

It is a pity Sir Keir did not mention Scotland’s consistently strong performance on the inward investment front.

This was surely a bit of an omission from an objective standpoint, taking into account the things which the Scottish Government can influence.

Acknowledgement of this success would have enabled him to present a more rounded view of the Scottish economy, and maybe even have created a picture that he was up to speed on what was going on.

Of course, examination of which powers are devolved and which are not also applies when considering the Scottish Government’s celebrations of successes.

However, it surely has firm grounds for claiming credit on the inward investment front.

The EY survey showed, by number of projects, Scotland remained the second-top destination in the UK for FDI, behind only London. Scotland achieved a 14% rise in the number of inward investment projects secured in 2021, to 122. This put a 1.8% increase for the UK as a whole in the shade.

Sir Keir mentioned none of this though. As noted already, he did not flag austerity either. Although he referenced UK Government shortcomings, it was somewhat in passing. It was as if Sir Keir perceives the SNP, as opposed to the Tories, as Labour’s main rival.

Sir Keir and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves seemed to almost bang the Brexit drum as they visited Scotland.

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Ms Reeves sounded like the Tories as she talked about not “always turning to immigration”. It was an interesting position given the firm Remain stance of the Scottish electorate in 2016.

Sir Keir seemed almost to give a view that Brexit had not damaged the Scottish economy, or at the very least that it was somehow not a big factor relative to what he perceives as SNP shortcomings, which is interesting given the very limited devolved powers with a major bearing on the economy.

This is all surely, from any objective stance, truly remarkable.

It flies in the face of what a welter of economic surveys show, and the very firm view of so many businesses across a raft of sectors that Brexit has had a major detrimental impact on them and will continue to do so.

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Businesses in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, if Sir Keir cared to listen, have long been highlighting the huge troubles caused by Brexit in fuelling labour and skills shortages.

And Brexit has created enormous woes for exporters in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Sir Keir, of course, is a passionate convert to the Brexit cause it seems, and has somewhat remarkably ruled out a return to the European single market or even the customs union.

It seems that on the political front Sir Keir sees a need to pander to the so-called Red Wall voters in the north of England, who switched to the Conservatives in the December 2019 general election seemingly in no small part because of their love of Brexit and dislike of immigration.

The Conservative clampdown on immigration from the European Union and wider European Economic Area has – by restricting so severely the pool of labour and skills at a time when the UK is facing a demographic nightmare with an ageing population – limited greatly Britain’s growth potential.

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Yet Sir Keir is happy to come to Scotland and wax lyrical about how the UK will under Labour achieve the highest sustained growth of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations.

He must surely know that Brexit, which he was not so long ago arguing vociferously and eloquently against, is weighing heavily on the economy in Scotland and throughout the UK.

Sir Keir’s table-topping G7 growth ambition is, given the Brexit drag, a bit like an ever-hopeful gambler thinking that, if you increase enormously the weight being carried by the favourite for the Grand National, it still has some chance of winning.

In short, Sir Keir’s musings on the Scottish economy were probably of negative value.

Consideration of substantive issues was lacking, and the analysis seemed bizarre.

Of course, Sir Keir is a politician, but a more even-handed assessment of the pluses and minuses might have lent him a bit more credibility.

Most of all, there was no proper acknowledgement of the woes visited upon the Scottish economy by the Conservatives’ dismal policy-making, from their hard Brexit to an entirely counter-productive austerity programme involving savage welfare cuts.

There was no focus on the burden on Scottish businesses and households from sky-high energy prices – a UK-wide problem.

Surely Sir Keir must see all of these problems throughout the UK.

Yet he came to Scotland and issued an assessment of the economy which seemed to deny any significant influence from the UK Government’s decisions, almost as if he was talking about the state of an independent nation.