Talk to us plea

Private sector ‘can ease pain of spending cuts’

Ken Ross: ‘politicians have not learned from past mistakes’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Developer to announce acquisition of Hallhill Developments

Veteran property developer Ken Ross says the Scottish government must design policies that encourage more private sector investment in helping to support public services and grow the economy.

He says ministers rely too much on juggling spending cuts and tax rises instead of engaging with financial institutions, such as pension funds and other potential investors.

Mr Ross, who is due to announce that he has acquired the Dunbar-based Hallhill Developments, said these investors are being deterred by policies that create too much risk.

Speaking to Daily Business, the CEO of Ross Developments and Renewables, said investors can choose where to put their money and they look for stability and the highest returns.

“They don’t like policy that ‘frustrates, legislates and regulates when it should facilitate’,” he said.

“John Swinney [ the interim Finance Secretary] is advocating more cuts, therefore they need to galvanise the private sector to help generate growth.”

Mr Ross believes that treating the private sector as an observer rather than a participant in building the economy is leading to bad legislation – such as the recent rent freeze which will have a “damaging effect” on the housing sector and, ultimately, on tenants.

The freeze was introduced last month by Patrick Harvie, the Green Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights. There was no prior consultation with landlords or investors and consequently there was a huge backlash from the sector and a number of projects were put on hold.

“It was probably the quickest piece of legislation in 15 years,” said Mr Ross. “Doing it just before the party conferences sent the most appalling message to the investment community.

“I doubt Mr Harvie will accept it was wrong. He is more in favour of tenants’ rights than increasing the supply of housing.

“But who is advocating the rights of the 188,000 on housing waiting lists? They are an invisible group.

“This policy demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how to attract investment into this sector. Without rental growth landlords and investors will simply invest into other markets.

“It also demonstrates that the politicians involved have not learned from similar errors in the past. The rent freezes that were imposed in Glasgow last century created the slums such as the Gorbals. Economists have stated that the best way to destroying a city centre, other than bombing, is to impose rent controls.”

Mr Ross, a former chair of the Scottish Property Federation and the Scottish Housebuilders Association, said there is also a fundamental failure to address the impact of population change in developing the economy.

“By 2045 the population in Scotland will be in decline. No economy has been able to grow unless the population grows.

“Furthermore, the numbers over the age of 65 will increase by 68%. This will require five new major hospitals and massive expansion of the care sector. Who is going to pay for it?

“The government should not be frightened to engage with the private sector. I hope they pick up the phone.”

Ross acquires Hallhill Developments

Ken Ross, who is a director of Hallhill Developments, is expected to announce that he has bought the business from a private couple.

Hallhill is a large mixed use scheme in Dunbar which features the Dunbear, a five-metre sculpture created by Scottish artist, Andy Scott, who was responsible for the ‘Kelpies’,

The scheme began on site in 1999, delivering more than 1,500 homes, sports facilities and 56 acres of community woodland, as well as school provision and commercial and retail outlets. 

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