Two of Scotland’s foremost entrepreneurs have welcomed the Scottish Government’s reenergised interest in the country’s business community. Lord Willie Haughey commented: “This is the most confident I’ve ever felt in 24 years that the Government is ready to listen to business.”

Also speaking on their Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey, co-host Sir Tom Hunter noted: “I think the First Minister Humza Yousaf is reconnecting with business. As we’ve said many times before, this is starting from a very low point under our previous First Minister, but Humza really is out there listening to businesses.”

While acknowledging his was a business show and not a politics forum, Sir Tom added: “This is an opportunity to get the message across to listeners and readers, and more importantly politicians, that the only way to afford to pay for the NHS and social care and a great education system is if businesses and individuals pay their taxes. 

“And that’s got to be as part of a growth agenda. So I was encouraged when the First Minister also said in his programme for government speech in Holyrood he was ‘pro-growth’.”

He added: “I wonder how the Greens felt when he said that!”

Lord Haughey took up this baton, recalling when the previous First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, launched her 10-year economic growth plan she had to do it standing beside Green Party Co-Leader Patrick Harvey, who, as soon as Ms Sturgeon had finished talking, responded by saying: ‘We are anti-growth.’

“So really you’re still fighting with one hand tied behind your back,” he added, “and the people out there have to understand what an anti-growth policy means to them.”

Lord Haughey, who has just taken up a post as a panel member of Anas Sarwar’s new economic advisory board, was also keen to praise the Scottish Labour Leader’s position on tax, commenting: “I thought it was brilliant this week when he stated higher taxation is no substitute for economic growth. That is a fantastic line!”

Picking up on the issue of taxation, Sir Tom noted the First Minister had alluded to tax rises for higher earners in Scotland potentially being included in the 2024-25 budget. He said: “We both understand those with the broadest shoulders have to carry the heaviest burden.”

However, he pointed out Sandy Begbie, Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise and also a new member of Anas Sarwar’s advisory board, had highlighted workers in Scotland’s financial services sector were being “squeezed” to pay the highest rates.

“The financial services sector is beginning to get worried about this constant squeeze on income tax,” he said.

Hoping the First Minister would take this on board, Lord Haughey added: “Because of Covid, we’ve all adapted to working from home and I’ve some of my senior executive team now saying not only do they want to work from home but they want to work from Ireland because of the taxation situation in Scotland.

“Hopefully, there will be a change of mind and a change of policy because we are one of the most taxed countries in Europe!”

Sir Tom said: “The number one thing for every business is to attract and retain talent. But talent is in short supply and it’s portable: it can go to an island. I mean there’s no visas needed for working from the beach.

“And because talent is scarce, it can command big money, which is fine, but it can also command whether to live in Scotland. 

“Scotland had a lot going for it. I’m not going to talk down Scotland but it’s just like investment. These dollars or pounds or euros are portable and people will choose location among a whole list of things.” 

Lord Haughey agreed, adding: “We’ve said for years we’d like to create better jobs and better paid jobs. Unfortunately, with the taxation policies we have at the moment and with taxes maybe going to increase, we’re going to create another offshoring boom. People are going to move.”