Covid recovery: SNP government is missing in action and doesn't understand what businesses need – Daniel Johnson MSP
As a former shopkeeper, I always find myself looking at events through the shop worker’s prism.
How would the current Covid developments have affected the business?
How would the store have survived with the lacklustre support from the Scottish government?
Would a reopening even be viable post-lockdown without an online presence too?
Last week's Scottish labour market figures did nothing to ease my distress.
Between December 2020 and February 2021, Scotland saw a decrease in the employment rate compared to the other UK nations, which all stayed the same or increased; and a larger increase in inactivity rate than any other nation in the UK.
Against this backdrop, what does the Scottish government do? Does it put in place useful practical support? Is there a new financial package? Are there clear guidelines for business? In a word, no. It sets up another financial task force.
These disappointing statistics clearly show that the Scottish government still hasn’t properly grasped the seriousness of this pandemic on jobs and people’s livelihoods.
We need a proper plan to get Scotland back to work, but it’s almost as if the SNP is missing in action.
There are things we can do to improve the situation, things that are within the control of Holyrood right now.
We have to be more coordinated in our approach and actually make it easier to start and maintain a business.
We have to make sure enterprise is encouraged across the board, re-tasking Scottish Enterprise to properly support business growth and start-ups. Many companies I have spoken with are unsure what exactly Scottish Enterprise does.
We have to provide the skills for staff to compete and indeed to up-skill post-pandemic.
Covid has already hit our economy hard and more losses are expected this year but the Scottish government is being far too timid with their response.
What the government does like to do is establish working groups like the Advisory Group on the Scottish Economy, which delivered its Higgins Report last year.
While a number of its recommendations would improve the situation, it now turns out another working group of economic wizards is being set up while the dust from the previous one has barely settled.
True economic prosperity post-pandemic calls for a UK-wide approach, a genuinely collaborative approach between the UK government and the devolved administrations, given that the border lies only about 40 miles from Edinburgh and Scotland does the vast majority of its trade with the rest of the UK.
We should encourage greater state procurement from domestic companies, allowing more Scottish companies to flourish, and provide them with the assistance and contracts they need. We need to see an emphasis in the future on more high-skilled jobs in green, digital media and financial technology.
I look forward to working with my counterpart in Westminster, Rachel Reeves MP, the Shadow Chancellor who is also calling on the government to make, sell and buy more in Britain.
The Scottish government still hasn't properly grasped the seriousness of this pandemic on jobs and people's livelihoods.
What we need is a plan and some action. Not yet another expert panel whose recommendations will be forgotten about after another 12 months. But that's what we get. Warm words and posturing, but no real action.