As China sets out an ambitious 5% growth strategy for its national economy, Scottish business leaders have urged politicians here to mirror their focus. 

As the world’s second-largest economy seeks to overcome challenges ranging from weak investor confidence to a dramatic property slowdown, Lord Willie Haughey said: “I hope our government is watching what the politicians in China are doing. They’ve announced an ambitious plan to stimulate its economy back into growth. 

“They are famed for having enjoyed an average annual growth rate around 10% for decades. In 10 years combined we’ve struggled to even hit five.

“The new plans seem to indicate a recognition from the Chinese government they have a problem on their hands and they need to do something about it.”

Speaking on the Go Radio Business Show, he continued: “China’s boom has been a major driver of global growth so we all have a stake in their continued performance. Given everything that is happening in China and globally ­– and their ability to deliver great products at a great price ­ – but also given the uncertainty over its trade war with America, is it wiser for Scottish businesses to pivot away from other Asian countries and markets such as Vietnam?”

His show co-host Sir Tom Hunter said: “Well, if you get growth in your economy, if hardworking business people are able to create jobs, pay their taxes, then you can afford to invest in your public services.

“That’s just the way it works. But I don’t think too many people outwith the business community actually quite get that. And I’m not quite sure most of our politicians get it either. 

“China absolutely gets it. You know they still talk about China as a communist country. Well, in my opinion, it’s definitely not. They really understand the links between growth and being able to raise taxes.”

Lord Haughey pointed out a new report from the CBI-Fraser of Allander Institute, the independent research unit and part of the Department of Economics at the University of Strathclyde, had highlighted the fact Scotland’s percentage of economic inactivity due to long-term sickness between October 22 and September 23 remains the highest of all of the four UK nations at 37.1%. 

“We’re struggling to get people back to work and that’s pushing down the overall productivity of the country. The impact of this inactivity on our GDP is going to be huge,” he said.

Sir Tom said: “I don’t know if people are just saying I don’t want to work or I’m not able to work. This needs more investigation because the numbers are truly terrifying, whatever the answer is. But I would like to look into this.”

Lord Haughey believed that, rather than talking about raising taxes right now, tax payers should instead protest about the lack of growth. 

“The number one priority for society and everybody should be to take this to their local councillor, their MSP, their MP. Ask them what they’re doing to drive the economy forward,” he said.

“Our growth rate in the past 10 years combined doesn’t come close to the growth rate of just one year in China. This is alarming and something has to be done about it.

“Driving the economy is the number one thing we can do to help everybody. If we want to get equality, let’s create jobs that pay well.”

Sir Tom said: “The Office of Budget Responsibility, which is an independent body of government, always put out their forecast at the same time as the budget. 

“On growth, they say the UK economy will grow at 0.1% this year. They’re expecting it to reach 1.9% in 2025 and 2.1% in 2026. And that’s them upgrading their forecast.

“I don’t think that’s good enough!”