Barrie Cunning: Scotland should be striving for better than SNP

I MET with business leaders and companies from various sectors this week that play a vital role in our economy and the message couldn’t be any clearer from businesses: both the Scottish and UK Governments are failing them by not listening to them. Putting party politics aside, this is very much a cause for concern which if left unaddressed will become a major issue for years to come in Scotland.

It’s the economy, stupid, was a phrase that became synonymous with Bill Clinton’s 1993 US presidential election campaign. James Carville, who coined the phrase, was spot on as most people understandably vote on the basis of a party that will improve their life.

The reality is that without business and attracting new inward investment jobs will be lost or not created, the economy will shrink, and overall people’s standard of living will be lower.

That is not the Scotland I want but we can be better than this. We should strive for better as opposed to accepting the status quo and having a government that talks a good game but in effect is just managing Scotland’s decline.

I want to see a Scotland where a first-time buyer can get on the property ladder without having to borrow from the bank of mum and dad, a Scotland that embraces entrepreneurialism where giving it a go is seen as a positive and a Scotland where your background really isn’t a barrier to becoming successful. A Scotland where social mobility is more than just a political soundbite. Who wouldn’t want that?

Whilst this is basic economics, the implications and consequences of not listening to the business community or rather working with the business community in Scotland, could potentially be far reaching and this should be at the top of the priority list for both the Scottish and UK governments.

Ironically, what we are seeing is two very different governments with different political leanings but with very similar outcomes – NHS at breaking point, teacher and education crisis, a housing and social health care crisis that almost certainly is on the verge of imploding and local councils having to endure more budget cuts as they attempt to deliver local services for local people and a business community that has no confidence in either government.

In the long term this is a recipe for disaster and the sooner it is addressed the better, but I suspect that after being in power for fifteen years, it’s highly unlikely the SNP will change tact anytime soon.

Quite simply both the Conservatives in Westminster and the SNP in Holyrood have put their obsession with the constitution ahead of delivering their promised domestic agenda which has left a lot of people short changed and feeling disillusioned with politics. Is it any wonder people are more cynical about politicians now than they have ever been?

For fifteen years, Scottish politics has been overshadowed by the constitutional question which should have been settled in 2014 but has continued to hang over Scotland’s political discussion like a bad hangover.

The Scottish Government is strong on narrative, strong on rhetoric but weak on actions and has constantly overpromised but under delivered. Let’s not forget it was the SNP who promised to “scrap the unfair council tax” back in 2007 and fifteen years on it’s still here – we should demand better than this.

Political posturing underpinned by the need to have a constant grievance strategy with Westminster is at the core of the SNP thinking but the people of Scotland are starting to see through this and the message from the business community is loud and clear. They want a government that will engage, listen and act as a champion for them, and it is the Labour Party that is starting to fill that void in Scotland and across the UK.

Scotland needs an industrial strategy that is ambitious and far reaching and the Labour Party recognises this. It’s quite a telling sign when businesses are actively engaging with the opposition party on a scale and size that I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s a clear sign that the political tectonic plates are moving with the business community wanting to know what Labour’s plan for the economy is, for business and how we will support them.

Barrie Cunning is a former Scottish Labour parliamentary candidate and is the Managing director of Pentland Communications.

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