Somebody once said there are few things more dangerous than a mixture of power, arrogance and incompetence. They must have had the Scottish government in mind. A recent report by KPMG for the Confederation of British Industry and Business revealed that Scotland’s economy is trailing behind the UK and its international rivals. KPMG warned that our ‘underperforming economy’ could face major business closures and job losses as we struggle out of the coronavirus pandemic. KPMG’s stark message should come as no surprise. Scotland has had over 13 years of incompetent SNP government, where the day job of running the economy and building prosperity has been shelved, to make way for their obsessive drive to break up the UK. As we enter a new year and face crucial Holyrood elections in May, it is time to take stock.

The KPMG report demonstrates clearly that the threat of yet another divisive independence referendum and the prospect of partition have frightened away inward investment. Companies who once may have come to Scotland to create economic growth and jobs, have gone south of the border where they can rely on the strength and stability of the pound, lower taxes, a better education system and a government that respects business and industry. They seek the reassurance of post-Brexit economic expansion, rather than the SNP’s promise of trying to re-join the EU, with its requirement to abandon the pound and adopt the Euro, while severing ties with the rest of the UK, where we do 60% of our trade. 

Wary entrepreneurs can judge the SNP government’s record on business and industry by looking at their catastrophic interventions at the Ferguson Marine shipyard, the ruinous collapse of BiFab in Fife and Lewis, the ill-fated SNP government takeover of Prestwick Airport and their disastrous support for business during the Covid crisis. It is an uninspiring inventory. The Scottish government’s own consolidated accounts for 2018/19 have revealed how SNP ministers have been forced to write off £135m of taxpayer’s money so far, doled out in the form of loans and investments to prop up failing companies. It is a sad indictment for an administration that constantly claims to be underfunded and blames the government at Westminster. But the report lays bare the true extent of power, arrogance and incompetence that has blighted Scotland’s economy and cost countless jobs.

A Holyrood inquiry into the ferry fiasco at Ferguson Marine branded the government’s management process a “catastrophic failure.” The 129-page report from MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee, slammed the SNP government for a lack of due diligence, poor project management and a failure to take the necessary action to resolve problems as they emerged. The disgraced former SNP finance secretary Derek Mackay arrogantly trumpeted his plans to nationalise the shipyard in 2019 stating “We have always been clear that we want to complete the vessels, secure jobs and give the yard a future.” The two ferries were under construction for CalMac at a contract price of £97m. Since the shipyard was taken over by the SNP government, work on the vessels has effectively ground to a halt. Revised estimates for completing the two rusting hulks have put the cost to the public purse at over £200m, more than double the original price. The ferries are already four years overdue and islanders on Arran and the Outer Hebrides who were expecting them to be in service shortly, will continue to suffer. The whole affair has exposed the scandalous incompetence of the SNP government who have no business experience and a cavalier attitude to wasting vast sums of taxpayers’ money.

Sadly, the ferry fiasco is only the tip of a sizeable iceberg. Scotland should have taken fright when the SNP government broadcast its plans to nationalise Prestwick Airport in 2013. Transport Secretary Michael Matheson proudly announced that the Scottish government had bought the airport for £1. Predictably, by 2016 the loss-making entity required a taxpayer bailout of £40m. With sometimes fewer than 4 scheduled flights a day, even before the pandemic, Prestwick was no longer “Pure Dead Brilliant” as its former slogan had boasted and all attempts by the government to sell it had faltered. Prestwick is a vital resource that will be essential for  Scotland’s economic future. It’s blatant mismanagement by the SNP government is lamentable and attempts to blame it on Covid-19 ignore the fact that it has been run into the ground since it was nationalised seven years ago.

The failure of BiFab has delivered another body blow to Scotland’s economy. The engineering firm, with plants in Fife and Lewis, specialised in building steel jackets for wind turbines. BiFab was taken over by a Canadian firm, after they bought a majority share for a total of £4, while the SNP government stumped up a staggering £52m for a minority share. But despite the fact that Scotland is now littered with onshore and offshore industrial wind turbines, with plans to erect hundreds more, the company failed to secure any new contracts and was placed in administration, destroying 200 jobs. The promise of hundreds of new jobs as Scotland aspires to become the Saudi Arabi of wind energy has in fact resulted in an industrial farce, with another £52m of taxpayers’ money squandered and hundreds of jobs lost. Scotland will continue to import our wind turbine jackets from China and South Korea, where new coal-fired power stations are being opened every week to provide the steel for our windmills, pumping vast quantities of toxic carbon into the global atmosphere.

The SNP government’s handling of the Covid crisis has added yet another dimension to their business ineptitude. Scotland’s hospitality sector has reacted furiously to what they regard as ‘shameful treatment’ by the SNP government, pointing out that they have only received a quarter of the support offered to bars and restaurants in Wales. The Scottish government’s combination of power, arrogance and incompetence has not served our business and industry sectors well. SNP economy minister Fiona Hyslop seems unable to explain how the extra £8.6 billion from the UK Government to fight the pandemic has been spent. A sea-change is needed in 2021.