Thursday, 3 February 2011

"SNP risks losing the 'business vote'": Alastair Ross

Published in Public Affairs News, 31/1/2011. Click here to view.

"David Cameron has begun 2011 as pro-business, pro-growth and pro-jobs, but in Edinburgh Alex Salmond appears to be taking a different tack.

The SNP won power in 2007 not least by convincing a previously sceptical business community through a confidence-building campaign around boardroom tables. The party was even prepared to park the independence issue to debunk the risk factor from an SNP Government that advocated lower taxation, entrepreneurship and supporting businesses at all levels. Some of Scotland’s leading business people even put their names to SNP newspaper adverts.

Four years on, it looks rather different. The financial crisis encouraged opponents to challenge Salmond’s close links to the Scottish banks. Then came a showdown with drinks giant Diageo, which announced its withdrawal from Kilmarnock. The SNP demanded a change of heart that was never likely.

Tackling Scotland’s battle with ‘the booze’ was to have been a defining act of this administration, but a minimum unit price for alcohol set SNP ministers at loggerheads with the whisky industry.

Now the respected finance secretary, John Swinney is levying an extra £30m on large shops in business rates – a straightforward hit on those businesses the SNP thinks can best afford it. There’s a tangible concern that it may become more expensive to run a business in Scotland than other parts of the UK.

This from a social democratic party whose success was in part based on championing lower corporation tax, less red tape and sustainable economic growth (ahead, even, of the raison d’ĂȘtre of independence).

Small business still enjoys a rates relief scheme, and SME owners and employees may be more inclined to vote than those in large corporations. The SNP might think the Scottish business vote has nowhere else to go, but in public affairs terms it still seems quite a gamble in an election year.

Alastair Ross is a CSPP Board Member and director (public policy) at McGrigors LLP

1 comment:

  1. One of the interesting developments of the past 12 months (since the UK General Election in effect), has been the orchestrated work to ensure the last year of a minority SNP administration is painted as inapt at best, ineffective at least. The forces behind this orchestration make for odd bedfellows.

    Industrialists from the right through to trade unionists on the left. Even COSLA's middle of the road leadership ("we've got what we wanted from them") is now into the endgame chorus of disapproval. With one simple aim - to deny Salmond a return to power.

    Interestingly, by taking out Salmond, of course, the common cause of this unholy alliance is no longer there. Right will go back to hating left, and vice versa. A new minority administration is unlikely to last the pace.

    The parliamentary arithmetic is unlikely to allow any two parties who might actually agree a coalition to have a majority. Any majority after May is likely to be between the Tories and the largest party (and let's face it neither Labour or the SNP would or could envisage that) or require a tri-party deal between three of the four larger parties (small parties are very likely to remain small as d'Hondt squeezes them out in a polarised two-horse race).

    So, will this 'new Scottish Politics' mark II be good for business? I doubt it. But you get what you campaign for. A more responsible role by industry in working with the SNP over the past year could have changed that, alas, the partisan mind of some leaders just couldn't resist the kill.