THE SNP Government is clueless when it comes to business. Their leftist ‘public sector good/private sector bad’ agenda and obsession with independence is undermining Scotland’s economy and costing jobs at a time when we desperately need to stimulate growth. The problem is easily uncovered; there is hardly a member of the SNP cabinet that has ever had any real business experience. Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, certainly spent some time with Standard Life, before becoming an MSP when the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999. But when she stated recently that only independence could deliver green jobs for Scotland, she was roundly attacked by Gary Smith, chief of one of Scotland’s biggest trade unions, the GMB, who said: “Whatever your position on the constitution, that’s an appalling statement to make.” When even the unions begin to question the integrity of our economy minister, what chance does the business sector have?

Then there is Kate Forbes, the doughty, Gaelic-speaking Cabinet Secretary for Finance. She took over from the disgraced Derek Mackay this year. Aged 30, she spent two years as a parliamentary assistant to an MSP, then two years working as a chartered accountant with Barclays, before being elected to Holyrood in 2016. She’s a talented individual, no doubt. Yet experienced enough to get the best outcomes from a £35 billion annual budget? I fear not.

Perhaps the veteran SNP stalwart, Fergus Ewing, as Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, speaks up for business at the cabinet table? As a minister of long-standing, his politics tilt slightly to the right of his cabinet colleagues and of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, although his primary position in the SNP’s dynastic Ewing family has always provided him with impenetrable body armour to protect him from the left’s slings and arrows. He recently secured £40 million from Rishi Sunak to protect Scotland’s tourist industry from the latest lockdown restrictions.

But Fergus Ewing’s best efforts fall far short of what the hospitality sector needs. The five-star Glenapp Castle hotel in Ballantrae organised a letter to the First Minister signed by 100 leading hoteliers, protesting about the decision to ban alcohol sales during the extended October ‘circuit breaker’. They complained that the ban had led to hundreds of cancelled bookings and would ultimately cost thousands of jobs. The confusing rules were ill-conceived and unworkable and have seriously undermined business confidence. Leading Scottish chefs Tom Kitchin and Dean Banks voiced similar concerns, with Kitchin saying the latest restrictions on restaurants were “madness.”

Scotland’s hoteliers and chefs were highlighting a glaring deficiency in the governance of Scotland. We have a government that listens intently to scientific advice on Covid-19 and surrounds the First Minister daily with dentists, doctors and assorted clinicians, but where are the business advisers? Where are the experts on industry and small and medium-sized enterprises? We hear repeated assurances from Nicola Sturgeon that she is trying to achieve a balance between saving lives and saving the economy, but we see no evidence of who is mandated to advise her on the latter. It is clearly not Steve Dunlop, the Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, the government’s economic development agency, who quit this month after less than three years in the job. Mr Dunlop appears to have walked out in frustration at the SNP Government’s failure to implement a medium or long-term economic plan.

Sir Tom Hunter, Scotland’s richest man, has slammed the SNP’s lack of business experience, arguing that our economic recovery can only be spearheaded by industry leaders, rather than politicians. Jim McColl, one of Scotland’s most successful businessmen and a one-time adviser to Nicola Surgeon, has condemned “career politicians” and “a lack of business nous in the government” for our escalating problems. The highly respected Scottish businessman Sir Ian Wood accused the Nationalist administration of being "generally adversarial and negative about a whole range of things that might happen with the UK and Scotland working together."

If you look at the list of advisory groups guiding the Scottish Government on Covid-19, the only one providing a national economic overview is the independent Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER), led by senior businessman Benny Higgins. It was set up in April and effectively wound up in June after it published its initial plan. There has been no independent group providing advice to the government since, despite the fact that we are facing renewed restrictions, local lockdowns and curfews, which are causing serious economic hardship and rising unemployment. The SNP government needs to re-establish AGER and to work closely with Westminster to ensure that we maximise the advantages of massive financial assistance from the Treasury and the Scotland Office. If we are going to help thousands of businesses survive the winter, we cannot continue to rely simply on the limited commercial expertise of the SNP cabinet.

Scotland’s business community are deeply frustrated that their commercial activities are being repeatedly restricted by Nicola Sturgeon, at a time when we are facing the greatest economic depression in our history. They fear that there is no coherent plan for recovery and that the sole focus of Scotland’s nationalist government is on Covid and Indyref-2, the twin harbingers of doom for Scottish jobs and prosperity. The blind faith in independence by SNP supporters is allowing our nation to sleepwalk towards economic disaster, severing links with our biggest trading partner and having to borrow gigantic sums of money on the international markets at inflated interest rates, to avoid national bankruptcy. With our current deficit at 8.4%, even higher than Greece, Scotland would not be welcomed back into the EU. We would be alone, adrift on a sea of debt and facing huge cuts to our public services like the NHS, schools and local councils. Taxes would soar. That is the reality of partition that the cultish illusion of independence seeks to obscure. The Covid pandemic has highlighted, as never before, the value of Scotland’s membership of the UK and the short-sightedness of those who seek to end it.

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