As I See It
Why it is crucial to match fairness and wealth
Within the next couple of weeks Scotland will have a new global leader, though you’d get good odds that no one in the Scottish Government is preparing a statement to mark the creation of Standard Life Aberdeen.
Standard Life’s merger with Aberdeen Asset Management creates a company worth £11 billion. It will have £670bn of assets under management, allowing it to stride over the European fund management sector and compete with the big operators in the US.
Surely a good reason for Scotland’s politicians to celebrate? Well, references to the deal could be written in the margins of any of the party leaders’ recent speeches. Sadly, the one aspect of this deal that was picked up concerned the 800 jobs likely to be lost. In truth, they’ll be absorbed mainly through staff turnover.
Such is the failure of politicians to keep up with developments in this deal that one of our senior politicians even managed to confuse the job losses with a spurious report in the Sunday Times suggesting Standard Life was about to open talks with Scottish Widows.
It has been a long-held criticism of Scotland’s politicians that their treatment of business has been tinged with tolerance, resentment and ignorance. Too often they have seen businesses as a cash cow to plunder to feed their various social programmes.
This has been caused partly by the unbalanced financing of the Scottish parliament which has operated as a spending authority with few independent powers to raise money beyond business rates. This will be partly corrected by its new ability to levy taxes, although there are concerns that this will merely encourage some to take a more aggressive approach towards raiding the country’s companies.
To that extent, the independence-supporting lobby group Business for Scotland is right to call on the SNP to put wealth creation on a par with fairness.
Its leader Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp has stated that leaving the UK would offer the ‘business opportunity of a lifetime’ and says the group, claiming to represent 4,000 businesses, would be critical of the SNP if it failed to adopt this more balanced approach.
He said that being a left-of-centre political party that cares for communities, workers and their rights needed to be matched with an understanding of the needs of businesses and entrepreneurs.
This means that the party, while campaigning for a living wage, must also focus on how businesses are able to pay those wages.
This is a refreshing intervention by a key supporter of the nationalists who have obsessed about equality without doing enough to address the means to achieve it.
Mr MacIntyre-Kemp’s comments may be aimed at the SNP, for obvious reasons, but they apply equally to other parties which are even more worrying.
Tax raising proposals from Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be damaging to Scottish business – and consumers – creating the highest taxed part of the UK and sending the wrong signal to domestic and international investors.
Scotland needs a favourable tax regime, one that reduces the burden on all and encourages the creation of jobs – and more taxpayers. It needs to encourage the development of venture capital, also through the tax system, and do more to speed up development by further improvements to the planning process.
A political manifesto that prioritised these issues would mark a notable change in political thinking and one that would be in keeping with the entrepreneurial undercurrent in the Scottish economy.
Slow news day
A headline this morning had me choking on the cornflakes… ‘Fred Goodwin, the now disgraced former RBS chief executive, in his own words’.
Was this the mother of all interviews? Well, it turns out to be a re-run of an interview given 16 years ago. Huh?
The so-called silly season was something that applied mainly to political journalists starved of parliamentary gossip, but we do seem to be in danger of lapping up non-news and half-news.
Take the latest comments from one of the big four accountants that food and drink firms should prepare for Brexit. This has been picked up by some in the media, but isn’t it just stating the obvious?
It was pushed out by the PR firm representing the accountancy firm and, of course, has nothing at all to do with promoting the firm’s expertise in the food and drink sector.