Banker hired

Ex-SNP adviser Higgins to help Labour woo business

Higgins and Sturgeon
Benny Higgins with former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pic: Terry Murden)

A former banker who advised the SNP on Scotland’s recovery from Covid has been hired to support Labour’s attempts to woo the business community.

Benny Higgins, previously the chief executive of Tesco Bank and a former high flyer at HBOS and RBS, will report directly to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, and Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds in the run-up to the general election.

While previously expressing some admiration for former SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, he said yesterday there was no contradiction in accepting work with Labour which is now tipped to win power at both Westminster and Holyrood.

He spoke about “the opportunity for a new UK government to reset the relationship with business.”

It is understood that he has set up a series of meetings over the coming weeks to assess the views and needs of business with a view to underpinning Sir Keir’s plans for an industrial strategy across the UK. Mr Higgins is due to report to the Labour leadership early in the new year.

Mr Higgins’ advice for the Scottish Government included recommendations on the creation of the Scottish National Investment Bank, although he has been critical of the SNP administration’s approach to business.

In November 2021 he told Finance Secretary Kate Forbes that the relationship between government and business “isn’t working”.

However, his own advice has come in for criticism from the business community.

A number of senior figures including Prof Graeme Roy, who was at the Fraser of Allander Institute at the time, together with the entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, and Prof Ross Brown of St Andrews University School of Management, described his 2020 report on post-Covid recovery as vague and offering nothing new.

Independent economist Tony Mackay described the 77-page dossier as “very poor and very disappointing” and Prof Brown noted that it made only one mention of SMEs.

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