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Nicola Sturgeon faces massive blow as business chiefs turn on SNP – ‘Have some courage!’
June 22, 2020
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Business bodies fear Nicola Sturgeon does not have the ability to listen to the needs of business and independence would see the country completely blacked out from vital financial support. The fate of Scotland’s economy will be determined later today following the publication of a report Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER).
The report will outline recommendations of how Scotland should recover following the COVID-19 crisis.
Struan Stevenson, chief executive of Unionist business group Scottish Business UK, said: “I look forward to reading the AGER report but fear delivery of its proposals will be undermined by the inability of the First Minister and her Government to listen to or accept the needs of business.
“Miss Sturgeon must have the courage to stand up to those in her own party demanding independence as a panacea for Scotland’s ills and rule out any moves to have a referendum in the near future.”
Instead of independence, the group published a new policy paper titled “Strengthening the Union: A Framework for Business Success, SBUK” which urges Westminster to shake up devolution to secure Union and boost accountability.
It argues steps should be taken to overhaul decision-making in Scotland by undertaking a range of reforms that would improve democratic accountability and drive better outcomes for communities and businesses.
These measures include creating an elected second chamber within the Scottish Parliament which should be able to have a remit to review policy, question the Scottish Executive and hold Scottish Ministers to account.
Alongside this, it also calls on Westminster to establish a new UK Department for the Union and create an Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) for the Union to provide objective analysis of policy decisions.
The paper stresses that to “successfully counter the SNP’s drive toward independence” in the years ahead, the government must be far “more confident and assertive” in articulating a clear, positive and ethical case for the Union.
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The former MEP added of the report: “Businesses in Scotland have had enough of the risk and uncertainty that the endless threat of separation entails.
“Yet it is equally clear that the SNP government will not stop searching for pretexts for a second independence referendum.
“That means there is an urgent need to identify new ideas to strengthen our shared institutions in ways that lock in rising prosperity for communities both here in Scotland and in the rest of the UK.”
She stressed the Union was something of “immense value that needs to be celebrated, upheld and – where necessary – sustained by prudent reform.”
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The warning from businesses comes after Scotland’s GDP plunged by 18.9 percent during April, the first full month of lockdown.
The economic figures also revealed GDP fell by more than 23 per cent since February whilst the accommodation and food sector was also hit with an 85 percent fall.
Andrew Wilson, who helped draw up the SNP’s Growth Commission, the party’s independence blueprint, warned that Scotland could be the “worst economy” in the developed world.
Mr Wilson, a former MSP, said: “What’s clear to me is the UK is set to be the worst-performing economy in the developed world and Scotland’s probably going to be a bit worse because of the nature of our sectors and how the virus has behaved north and south of the Border.”
In response to the concerns, an SNP spokesperson said: “The full focus of the Scottish Government and SNP MSPs must remain on coronavirus and the resultant economic crisis.
“When the time is right, it would be antidemocratic to deny the people of Scotland their right to decide their future.”