Nicola Sturgeon has put independence ahead of Scotland's economic recovery.
Robert Kilgour is Chairman and Founder of Scottish Business UK, and CEO of Dow Investments
It’s that time of year again, when politicians, members, delegates and the media begin to pack their bags ahead of the party conference season. First up this year, albeit online, is the SNP, who, after almost fifteen years in Government, will set out their priorities anew. It should come as no surprise that independence is top of that agenda, just as it was the main priority in the First Minister’s Programme for Government speech to parliament on Tuesday.
Close observers of Scottish politics will have noticed a busy few weeks in Holyrood. Nicola Sturgeon will no doubt be hailed as the party leader that delivered an unprecedented fourth term in power. However, all is not well in Scotland, and Sturgeon knows it. A reckless deal with the Scottish Greens has exposed how little stock Sturgeon puts on supporting our economic recovery and creating an investment friendly environment in Scotland.
When Scotland’s company leaders think back to past conferences, they remember an open-arms welcome from an SNP hierarchy that studiously courted businesses. The SNP studiously assured businesses the economy was in safe hands. No longer is that message anything like credible. In signing away Scotland’s prosperity to the Scottish Greens, Sturgeon has left Scottish business out in the cold.
Taking a look at the agenda, the focus this year is on independence, next year’s council elections and climate change. There isn’t a thought about the nation’s recovery post-Covid 19. To put this into context, the recent GERS numbers, which provide insight into the economic performance of the Scottish Government, show the budget deficit doubled last year to over £36bn.
Let’s be clear, Scotland doesn’t want to be reliant on England and as an entrepreneur, I instinctively believe in creating value to the economy through jobs and growing businesses. However, I, like many Scots, have valued the partnership that we have with our closest neighbours when times are really tough.
The reality is that the power sharing arrangement with the Scottish Greens will do the exact opposite to what the economy needs. The Greens’ manifesto was full of red tape and additional burdens on an economy already struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. They would have us believe the only way to grow our economy is through independence.
However, when push comes to shove, are the right decisions being taken? Take the Cambo oil field, West of Shetland, which could help create and sustain thousands of jobs for the next decade. I recognise that fossil fuel extraction is becoming increasingly tricky for politicians of all colours. However, rather than demonstrating leadership, fearing the loss of pro-independence votes from the Greens, Sturgeon has chosen delay and obfuscation, passing the decision like a hot potato to Whitehall.
The SNP faithful, for whom independence is the only policy that truly matters, will inevitably lap up the words of Sturgeon and her colleagues. Good for those who want to get involved, but what about the voices of business for whom pandemic recovery is still unfinished business?
Sadly the SNP is becoming a no-go zone for Scotland’s wealth creators. Ultimately, it’s the Scottish people who’ll suffer.