I had a conversation recently with the (proudly) Scottish owner of one of Scotland’s largest private companies, employing hundreds of people, who told me that he would never be able to start his business today because the weight of regulations would make it impossible. I also saw last week, walking past a construction site, a banner with the slogan “All accidents are preventable”.

Both of these are, in economic terms, deeply worrying for Scotland’s long-term prosperity. We need entrepreneurs to start business to create wealth, employ our citizens and contribute to society through paying taxes. If they can’t do that we will all be poorer.

The building site slogan is, of course, pious and misguided twaddle. Some accidents are not preventable – sometimes they really are accidents. The message you are meant to get however is clear - that everything can and must be done to prevent “accidents”.

The problem is that so much effort is put into risk assessments, having two people do the job of one, not lifting anything heavy, not getting up a ladder, having a fire alarm in every room and all the myriads of other requirements which regulations demand. This regulation heavy culture has a real cost and there comes a point where it almost certainly costs rather than saves lives.

Each individual regulation may be worthy and generally intended for the best but the cumulative impact is enormous and harmful.

A recent study in the US - ironically by a federal agency which was quickly disowned by its masters - estimated that the annual cost to the economy of regulation was approximately $2 trillion – roughly half the federal budget.

The Open Europe Think Tank estimated recently that the 100 costliest EU regulations (i.e. ignoring self-inflicted domestic regulations) now cost the UK £27 billion a year and that since 1978 regulation had cumulatively cost £176 billion.

These figures are open to challenge but they are not entirely wrong – regulation costs money – a lot of it. There comes a point, and arguably we are well past that point, when the impact of regulation on economic activity - slowing job creation and wealth generation as well as reducing tax revenues, means that the benefits of regulation are far more than outweighed by fewer jobs, less hospitals, closing schools and diminished public services because we cannot afford them, as a result of our economy growing more slowly than our society’s needs.

The drive for ever more regulation needs to be checked if we are to be able to afford a better society with more chance of looking after its citizens. Here are some ideas:

First – every new regulation must be matched by the removal of an old one.

Second – the underlying basis of liability needs to be altered from “who can we blame if something goes wrong and they haven’t got the right paperwork” to liability only attaching if somebody acted or was negligent in a way which was clearly reckless.

Third – all new businesses should have a 2 year period in which they are exempt from all health and safety regulation – but are still subject to the normal criminal law.

Let’s be clear – if you did these things you would be able to point to occasions when somebody was harmed because of the changes – but that bad would be far outweighed by the good of the more dynamic society we would create.

The real choice is not between safety and wealth but about whether the culture of taking no risks actually harms us far more as a nation in both economic and social terms.

Pinstripe is a senior member of Scotland's financial services community