THE sensing of a potential “watershed moment” in the Scottish Government’s interactions with business by small firms champion Colin Borland is striking.

There has been so much debate in recent years over the Scottish Government’s relationship with, and attitude towards, business.

Mr Borland, director of devolved nations for the Federation of Small Businesses, has been among the more moderate and constructive voices on this front. He has acknowledged the positives as well as highlighting areas of difficulty.

He is not alone in such an approach. At times, however, there have been other voices in the Scottish business community which have been a little more shrill, and often wide of the mark with their criticisms.

Several of my own columns have, taking in the whole picture, challenged the orthodoxy that has developed that the Scottish National Party administration has been bad for business.

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In contrast to the SNP, the Conservatives at Westminster have since 2010 surely been very bad for business indeed. The Tory errors have included, but by no means been limited to, hampering the economy greatly with ill-judged and counter-productive austerity and the utter folly of Brexit, which is hitting living standards hard and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

The SNP administration, which can obviously do little about Brexit other than highlight the folly and has only had powers to offset in a relatively small way some of the Tories’ savage austerity, has meanwhile been at the helm at a time when Scotland has been proving very attractive to overseas investors. Such external perception of attractiveness would seem like a good gauge, especially given the distortions sometimes created by the goldfish-bowl nature of politics in Scotland.

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Accountancy firm EY’s latest annual survey published last May showed Scotland outpaced UK-wide progress on foreign direct 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.

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Notwithstanding this, many in the business world, not just the strident and sometimes politically motivated lobbyists but also more thoughtful voices such as Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick, have highlighted perceived issues with the Scottish Government’s interaction with the sector.

Against this backdrop, the following observation from Mr Borland in his column in The Herald on Monday seemed all the more noteworthy: “We may have witnessed a watershed moment in the way the Scottish Government interacts with business.”

Mr Borland reflected on Humza Yousaf’s early days in his new post and offered the view that “the First Minister’s statement on his government’s priorities contained a lot that deserves our attention”.

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The FSB’s director of devolved nations added: “Most notably, after months of sustained campaigning from the Federation of Small Businesses and other industry bodies, Mr Yousaf announced a postponement of the much-maligned deposit return scheme (DRS). Furthermore, he sent the equally controversial anti-alcohol advertising and promotion plans, which I think many now accept should never have seen light of day, ‘back to the drawing board’.

“In doing so, the First Minister signalled there will be a renewed focus on meaningful engagement with business to guard against similar episodes in the future.”

Mr Borland noted that the “first test of this new approach to business engagement will be the review and reform of DRS”.

The specific proposals for and uncertainty around the DRS, which is aimed at encouraging more people to recycle plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans, have undoubtedly caused much angst.

There will no doubt be many tests of the perceived “new approach” ahead and it will be interesting to follow the various views on how Mr Yousaf and his administration are seen to be performing in these.

My column for The Herald on Wednesday reflected on how Mr Yousaf had acted swiftly and significantly on the DRS, and in sending the proposals on restricting alcohol advertising, which had seemed likely to result in absurd effects if implemented in their original form, back to the drawing board. The column concluded it was a case of “so far, so good” from Mr Yousaf (whose ascension to First Minister would not have been the choice of some company bosses) on matters business and economic but noted the importance of what came next.

It will be fascinating to see how things evolve from here.

My Friday column for The Herald meanwhile looked at two major constraints for Scotland’s tourism sector, which are particularly lamentable given the UK’s economic woes.

The shortage of affordable housing in remote and rural areas of Scotland is a key challenge for many hospitality operators, with the owners of The Seaforth seafood restaurant, bar and fish-and-chip shop in Ullapool having taken the innovative step of buying the nearby Morefield Motel to provide staff accommodation.

Mr Yousaf has identified affordable housing as a priority for his administration and it will be interesting to see how he tackles the situation and what results are achieved.

The other dispiriting constraint is of course the impact of Brexit in fuelling the skills and labour shortages crisis in the hospitality sector.

Sadly, it is clear that the Conservatives at Westminster, who have the power to deal with this problem, will not be doing so on ideological grounds. After all, it is their clampdown on immigration from European Economic Area countries to the UK, through their hard Brexit, which has caused this problem in the first place. And they most definitely have a predisposition towards not owning up to, or fixing, their sorry Brexit mess.