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Scotland needs a Business Secretary in the Cabinet

Terry MurdenAt last a business lobby group is calling for the appointment of a Business Secretary to join the Scottish cabinet. The Federation of Small Businesses wants John Swinney’s role as finance minister split to create a dedicated new post.

I have to agree. After all, I called for exactly the same thing last November in a column that followed the euphoric reception for new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Glasgow Hydro.

The FSB’s policy convenor Andy Willox says small businesses need an advocate at the top table, a clear reference to Fergus Ewing’s position as a non-Cabinet business minister.

Last year I noted the FSB’s acknowledgement of the imbalance of priorities in the Scottish government and that Colin Borland, who heads up the organisation, puts it diplomatically by noting that Swinney, while respected, has a “broad brief”.

Indeed, he has. Again it was noted last year when Ms Sturgeon was handing out jobs that Mr Swinney’s portfolio includes the Scottish economy, enterprise, trade and inward investment, energy and renewable energy, innovation, tourism, business regulation, accountancy and insolvency.

But that is not the full list. He also looks after government strategy, reform, delivery and outcomes across portfolios, cross-government implementation of Scotland’s digital future and relations with other UK administrations.

And...fiscal policy, the Scottish Budget, public spending, taxation, budgetary monitoring and reporting, public service reform, public bodies policy, efficient government, public sector pay and pensions.

And…liaising with the parliamentary bureau and MSPs of the government party, open government, including Freedom of Information.

And, of course, he is Deputy First Minister.

Adding a Business Secretary would double the number of Cabinet posts, but if it brings an improvement to government then there should be a chair at the table.

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