SNP Government’s New Deal for Business plan looks good on paper, but where’s the beef? - John McLellan
The survey, by Strathclyde University’s respected Fraser of Allander Institute, revealed only one business in 12 thought the SNP-led administration engaged effectively, and who can blame them?
A tried and mistrusted approach of policy-led evidence in which fire comes before aim has alienated sector after sector, from drinks companies with the disastrous deposit recovery scheme, the alcohol industry with the plan for a blanket advertising ban, and the fishing industry with highly protected marine area, all resulting in U-turns when warnings could no longer be ignored.
Going back further, the Land and Building Transactions Tax didn’t deliver projected revenue ─ as the SNP was warned ─ and rent controls have smashed the build-to-rent model of house building and hampered the deliverability of affordable homes in the process. Tougher short-term lets regulations are set to wreak havoc in the tourism sector.
All of this was avoidable if only the SNP had been prepared to listen, but for the Green Party and its absolutist mantra that natural resources are finite so all growth must stop, none of it is problematic.
At least First Minister Humza Yousaf acknowledges economic growth is needed to tackle poverty and on Tuesday he had the opportunity to turn words into deeds with his first Programme for Government (PfG).
Responding to the Fraser of Allander survey, Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray promised “further initiatives to support business” in the PfG, so what did Mr Yousaf announce?
“We will implement a new enterprise package,” he said, without going into detail.
“Our aim is to unleash innovation and entrepreneurial talent from all walks of life and in all parts of Scotland.” Sounds dandy. How?
“We will make it easier to start and scale a business.” Grand. When’s that happening?
“We will put Scotland’s universities at the heart of our economic future through spin-outs and the commercialisation of research.” Yes, please, but aren’t you and the UK Government supposed to be doing that already?
The First Minister’s speech duly recognised the “need to support economic growth” and promised to implement the recommendations of his newly formed “New Deal for Business” (NDfB) advisory group senior business figures, but there was very little, if anything, which business people could say would help them make more money. And when it comes down to it, that’s what it’s all about.
Even the NDfB plan mainly involves a slew of reviews and studies, so while businesses will be pleased there is a more positive attitude towards wealth creation in Bute House, it butters no parsnips if it doesn’t, as they used to say before contactless, get the tills ringing.
And as the Fraser of Allander research came after the NDfB’s recommendations were published, the only conclusion is that businesses either don’t know about or rate what it proposes.
Reacting to the FofA research, the former chair of Nicola Sturgeon’s Growth Commission, Andrew Wilson, gave some good advice to his erstwhile SNP colleagues. “Don’t confuse meetings with meaningful engagement & present an ambitious plan for growth & deliver on it,” he wrote.
Maybe Mr Yousaf didn’t see the message on time.