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Agencies 'sidelined'

Perry accuses SNP of ‘bullying’ quangos into silence

Jack Perry 1

Jack Perry: ‘chief executives won’t speak out’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Public agencies funded by the Scottish Government have been bullied and politicised by SNP chiefs, according to a former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise.

Jack Perry also accused the nationalist government of trying to “neuter” firms which failed to align their strategies with the party’s independence mission.

Mr Perry claimed financial growth goals had been “sidelined” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and that the economic development agencies had shown a lack of action during the Covid crisis.

“They seem to have lost their independence altogether. Frankly, they have just been bullied into submission,” he told The Scottish Sun.

“You’ll not find chief execs speaking out — they cannot speak publicly in opposition to the government. But the boards can and should when they see blatant politics entering into their budgets and into their mission.

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“They should also be out there making strong representation for the additional funding, programmes and projects that will actually get the economy moving. And they are not doing anything.

“The only growth industry has been creating commissions and task forces and groups. Where are the original ideas from the economy and enterprise ministers?

“They have been utterly silent in the midst of one of the greatest economic crises we’ve ever faced.”

Mr Perry, who led the enterprise agency for six years until 2009, said businesses feared putting their “heads above the parapet” with any non-indy stance or risk being picked off by the SNP’s media and PR operation.

He added: “They get shot down instantly and boycotted. It’s very slick. Tunnock’s got berated for promoting a British identity in export markets rather than Scottish. They subtly changed branding and suddenly there are boycott calls.

“You saw it with Barrhead Travel, who had the temerity to suggest maybe the Union was a good thing and again you had people calling for boycotts. They always play the man, not the ball. They always go for the individuals.”

Mr Perry claimed quangos had allowed themselves to be conditioned to promote “insidious” branding suggesting Scotland was independent.

He insisted the country’s civil service had become “highly politicised”.

Mr Perry, a former partner at Ernst & Young and chairman of CBI Scotland, added: “Since devolution, Scottish ministers effectively have right of veto over senior appointments. They only pick people they know will toe the line so you lose independence of mind and spirit at the top.”

Scottish Enterprise said its budget had risen by £42million this year and it had responded to 32,000 enquiries during the pandemic.

A spokeswoman told the paper: “Over the past year we’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with our partners, including government, and been at the heart of the economic response delivering rapid solutions to get over £200million into the hands of thousands of businesses across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Mr Perry’s claims were “not true”.

She added: “The chief executive of Scottish Enterprise is recruited in a fair and open way. Independent boards which govern public bodies are quite rightly entitled to speak their mind and challenge ministers on any issues they choose.”



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