2017 – time for truth

I recently sponsored a workshop to discuss and exchange views on Scotland’s future, bearing in mind the threat of another independence referendum after Brexit.

Those that attended didn’t represent a full cross section of Scottish voters (no SNP supporter accepted my invitation).  Some were die-hard supporters of the Union and as a consequence have a vitriolic dislike of all things SNP and Nicola Sturgeon.  Some were supporters of the Union but are concerned that by opposing all things SNP and Nicola Sturgeon they will damage their own interests, business, land ownership.  Others fell into a third category.  They professes no support for or against any political party. I believe their motivation can be summed up as a sense of fairness typical of their generation born in the 1970’s.  They are primarily concerned with what man is doing to the natural and societal environments.  I don’t disagree with them.  But where I do depart is whether, as I think, there has to be compromise and if so what the nature of compromise should be.

There were three key messages coming from our workshop: “be positive- keep it simple – be gender and racially diverse”.  Overriding these key messages is the need for a conduit for public opinion. People should be able to express their views on issues that they feel are critical to their support for both the UK and EU, without fear of ridicule or retribution.

In number and diversity the workshop was similar to the Council Meetings I played a part in with CBI Scotland before the last independence referendum.  Moreover. the messages I received were remarkably similar. One such message being whatever may be claimed now, at that time, the antipathy of CBI Scotland’s members to independence was accurately represented by their spokespeople.  At least there was little dissention at Council.  Currently business organisations appear to me to be inclined to wanting to make Brexit work and remain in the UK.  But like CBI, many are “dancing on a pin head” in fear of the SNP.

Back in September I wrote an essay: http://www.harrisrush.com/scotlands-place-out-of-the-eu/ wherein I reached the conclusion that Scotland has, on balance, little to lose by being out of the EU.  The simple truth is that Scotland’s economic future is irrevocably dependent on non-Scottish domiciled business and investors.  Moreover, whatever the SNP’s posturing, continued membership of the UK is the best option for Scotland.

The unvarnished truth is that the SNP’s proposals in Scotland’s Place in Europe are unachievable without the UK accepting the “four freedom” terms of the single market.  Certainly Scotland may seek a second referendum on independence. But until it does succeed in that endeavour, after the UK exits the EU Scotland will be entirely reliant on the rest of the UK’s taxpayers to make up the difference between tax income and public spending.

In any case the SNP’s proposals are constitutionally tortuous.  They invite the UK Government to agree constitutional changes with the EU without the authority of Parliament and the Scottish Parliament.   http://www.harrisrush.com/scotlands-place-in-europe

My hope is that in 2017 opposition parties in Holyrood will be candid with the electorate.  Poverty, inequality and fairness in Scotland are not improving and they won’t improve unless Scotland’s private sector is able to grow exceptionally.

But real business in Scotland has also got to be honest and tell the Scottish people some very hard home truths about the path our economy is on under not just the SNP but also by the other parties in Holyrood.  As individuals it’s hard to to take being accused of “talking Scotland down”.  That’s when trade associations and business organisations should step in.

CBI Scotland will appoint a new director sometime in the New Year.  When it does it must find a candidate like the one it lost (dumped) in September 2014.  A director who articulates what real businesses in Scotland think rather than what they may allow the public to assume.