ONLY by engaging with the business community will Scotland’s economy get the kickstart it needs, according to business stalwarts Sir Tom Hunter and Lord Willie Haughey who have said that the Scottish Government must look to southern Ireland’s success.

Sir Tom and Lord Haughey, speaking on the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey, pointed to the recently-published Oxford Economics report – titled Lessons from Ireland for Scotland’s Economy, A Paper for the Hunter Foundation – which revealed a key factor of Ireland’s economic transformation has been low corporation tax.

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Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter has called for UK corporation tax to be cut across key sectors in a bid to draw high-value investment.

Discussing the report, he said: “Over the next three years, the Irish government is forecasting a surplus of €65 billion a year while the Scottish Government is looking at a deficit of about £9 billion.

“Today, Ireland has nine out of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world and 14 of the top15 medtech companies.”

Attributing Ireland’s current position of strength to former Taoiseach Charles Haughey’s vision to get the best business brains together with the government to plot a long-term strategy for the country’s economy, Sir Tom said: “They looked at the growth industries of the future, how to bring in jobs.”

He added: “The Irish have been clever – they tied that into their education system and made STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects a real focus for universities. The Irish Development Agency became laser-focused on helping to attract companies, with one point of contact.”

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Labour peer Lord Haughey, who revealed that the former Taoiseach was a distant relation, said: “We’ve been saying for ages that Scotland’s answer likes in the collaboration between business and politics – not fighting with business every day but embracing business.”

He added that in his view, “Scotland is in a unique position where we can use the green energy debate to kickstart our economy”, stating: “I don’t think there’s another country in the world where you can take all the negatives and turn them into positives – wind and tidal power – to create energy.

“My advice to government is to be bold, think big with big policies. If you want to keep the Union together, instead of ‘levelling up’ and throwing cash out the four compass points of the extremities of the UK, why not give Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales ‘green’ status, and provide tax advantages to the people who want to invest.”

Going back to the Oxford Economics report, Sir Tom alluded to its advice that a small country like Scotland should focus on areas such as the green economy, and the AI and digital economy. “Specialise and become the best in the world,” he said.

“Ireland got the Apples and the Googles so let’s sit down and map out the next 20, 30 and 40 years – let’s get the next Apples, Googles and Metas and why not headquarter them in Scotland?”

Stressing that business and politics need to trust each other, Lord Haughey said: “Scottish business is in the state it’s in because of lack of dialogue over the last 15 years.”

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The businessmen also pointed to a recent Fraser of Allander Institute survey which revealed a low level of confidence in the Scottish Government by businesses. It revealed that only 9% of companies said they believe the Scottish Government understands the needs of businesses although First Minister Humza Yousaf has unveiled a “new deal for business” which includes considering whether business rates should be reviewed and a desire to “reset” relations with the sector.

While Sir Tom admitted that a recent invitation businesses to meet with the First Minister was encouraging, the Fraser of Allander report was “damning”.