Humza Yousaf’s attempts to paint himself as a proponent of economic growth and a champion of business are as about as convincing as Donald Trump’s claim to have won the 2020 US presidential election. Unveiling his Programme for Government in early September, the First Minister’s only sop to Scotland’s business sector was a pledge to support entrepreneurship and innovation with a miserly allocation of £15 million out of a budget totalling £60 billion! He then sent shivers down the spine of businesspeople and middle-income earners in Scotland by boasting that he will levy even higher taxes to deliver “the most progressive tax system in the UK”. 

Thanks to the SNP we already pay higher taxes in Scotland than any other part of the UK, destroying competitiveness and acting as a grave disincentive for people who might want to set up a business and come to work in Scotland. But every time Humza Yousaf mentions the word ‘progressive’ he means more eye-watering leftist tax hikes. His claim to be “anti-poverty and pro-growth” is left stranded by his failure to grasp the fact that the best way to tackle poverty is to support business and industry and to support economic growth. His ‘progressive tax policies’ will achieve the opposite. 

It is hardly surprising that a recent survey by the Fraser of Allander Institute revealed that only 9% of companies believe the Scottish Government understands the needs of business. This was reinforced by an opinion poll conducted by Survation that found that most Scots feel we don’t get value for our high taxes, with poor public services. 51% said the Scottish Government did not have policies to make the country a competitive place to do business. Indeed, the majority think the SNP/Green coalition government has developed a hostile environment for business. There is increasing pressure on Humza Yousaf to ditch the Bute House Agreement with the Greens, whose extremist anti-growth policies have hamstrung the SNP government. The Greens’ failed deposit return scheme cost businesses millions, and their disastrous proposal to close 10% of Scotland’s marine areas to all fishing and commercial activity was an acute embarrassment for Humza Yousaf. 

Add to that the litany of SNP/Green government failures, such as the ferry disaster, their failure to dual the A9, and their determination to close down the oil industry with the loss of hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs. The SNP’s response to their faltering education system and failure to close the attainment gap, is an absurd knee-jerk proposal to impose punitive costs on private schools, potentially forcing around 30,000 fee-paying pupils into the already over-stretched state sector. Their catastrophic mishandling of the NHS has failed patients and failed the workforce, with soaring waiting lists and delays for cancer treatment the worst on record. Even the hospitality sector is up in arms over plans for a licensing scheme for short-term lets and a new tourist tax. By doubling down on plans to hammer Air B & B and other operators, the First Minister has refused to heed warnings from the hospitality sector of the huge damage this will cause. And now in shock new plans, the police in Northeast Scotland have decided to stop investigating some ‘minor’ crimes in a bid to save cash. The magnitude of 16 years of SNP economic neglect and mismanagement comes into sharp focus.

The SNP/Green’s obsession with breaking up the UK and severing ties with our biggest trading partner, is putting the brakes on business growth and investment. The bill for civil servants and spin doctors in Scotland has rocketed by more than £600 million in the past 7 years and now tops £1.623 billion annually. Humza Yousaf’s appointment of Jamie Hepburn as Minister for Independence, spending over £1.4m of taxpayers’ money on a department boasting 20 officials, producing a series of superfluous documents about an imaginary independent Scotland, is simply the tip of their spendthrift iceberg. 

The latest Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures, compiled by the Scottish government’s own senior economic advisers, indicated that total Scotland-related public sector expenditure was £106.6 billion, while income from taxes was £87.5 billion, leaving a gap of £19.1 billion, or 9.0% of GDP. Despite higher oil and gas revenues, which the SNP/Greens now disown, Scotland still relies on a massive fiscal transfer from London to balance the budget. Where the SNP and Greens think this money could come from in an independent Scotland strains credulity. With mortgages, rents, and pensions already under severe pressure, the shock of separation would be catastrophic. Breaking up the UK would make the current cost-of-living crisis look like a picnic in the park.

In a panic over his anti-business credentials, the First Minister has paid lip service to suggestions by Sir Tom Hunter that Scotland could be turned into a 15% corporation tax zone for three key sectors in order to stimulate its economy. Sir Tom suggests these major tax cuts could be aimed at renewables, life sciences and big data, the three sectors which he believes are global winners for Scotland. UK businesses with profits above £250,000 currently pay 25% corporation tax rate, while firms with profits of up to £50,000 pay 19%. Sir Tom wants Holyrood and Westminster to work together to emulate the success of Ireland where their 15% corporation tax rate has seen the economy expand and attract international investment. 

By calling on the UK government to devolve corporation tax to Scotland, Humza Yousaf is clearly gearing up for more grudge and grievance aimed at Westminster, so that he can claim London is responsible for supressing Scottish business growth. Sadly, if corporation tax was devolved, the SNP/Green government at Holyrood would not reduce the levy to 15%, they’d more likely increase it to 30% as part of Humza Yousaf’s progressive tax policies, stalling inward investment and destroying business further. Sir Tom means well, but under the SNP and the Greens Scotland is never going to emulate Ireland. In 1653 Oliver Cromwell told the Rump Parliament: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” His words should resonate today in Holyrood.