Calamitous Tories and SNP have no idea how to kickstart the economy – Ian Murray
It’s vital to remember many small businesses are struggling too. This matters because it not only means owners are left with huge income challenges, but it puts their existing workforce at risk and stalls plans to create more jobs. I have been engaging with businesses across south Edinburgh, and the main issues that owners raise with me are energy costs, staff recruitment, Covid recovery and consumer confidence.
While recent government announcements now mean that businesses are getting some support with energy costs, there’s still a huge additional burden for many companies when their current fixed tariffs come to an end. But this crisis can’t all be pinned on Covid or high energy costs. It’s been years in the making.
Scottish wages have grown slower than any other UK nation, and productivity has stalled. Scotland also faces challenges in business growth. According to a Scottish Government analysis, “survival rates for business start-ups in Scotland have generally declined over time” and “Scotland consistently underperforms on the share of high-growth enterprises in the business base”.
Sixteen years of SNP government and 13 years of Tory government have failed to deliver on our nation’s extraordinary economic potential. Across the UK, the Tories have throttled economic growth, and in Scotland the SNP has failed to use the economic powers of devolution.
The changing of the guard at Holyrood was an opportunity to do things differently, but it’s an opportunity that has been missed with a continuity FM and a continuity Cabinet. Two of the only SNP MSPs with a clear business focus, Kate Forbes and Ivan McKee, have left government following Humza Yousaf’s election.
Shona Robison, whose stint in health was so calamitous she had to leave office before her best friend Nicola Sturgeon was forced to sack her, has now been put in charge of the nation’s finances and is deputy FM. That will send shudders throughout offices nationwide. We need to provide businesses with the stability and partnership from government to invest and develop.
Scotland should be one of the best places to start and grow a business. We have a flourishing tech industry, yet still lag behind the UK in the number of high-growth firms.
While we punch above our weight with the number of world-leading universities that attract spin-out investment, we have to turbocharge this to ensure they thrive in the long term and continue to create wealth in local communities. And we need to deliver the upfront funding required for early-stage renewable technologies, so Scotland's people have a stake in the profits created during the journey to net zero, and public services can benefit from the return on that investment, making the UK a green energy superpower.
The SNP may have a new Cabinet, but it does not have any new ideas. The Tories have lost any right to boast about economic credibility following the Liz Truss debacle and crashing the economy. Scotland and the UK need a mission-driven government, which will only come with Labour. We will end sticking-plaster politics, unlock the economic potential of our country, and give people and businesses hope. Nothing less will do.
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South