Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Disappointed by CBI Scotland

You may come across a story about CBI Scotland being disappointed by the excellent performance of the SNP SCottish Government. You will, of course, notice that the reported comments of Iain McMillan bear little relationship to the text of the actual release by the CBI, suggesting that the Director of CBI Scotland has gone off on his own on this one, tilting the release and giving additional comment to prop it up. If you were a director of a company paying good money to the CBI would you not be questioning why the director was trying to pick fights with a Government that is quite clearly keen to listen to businesses? Then again, I wondered why he was allowed to show partiality by joining the Calman Commission.

The actual CBI document being referred to is the response to the Scottish Budget which makes terribly interesting reading. The document actually praises the Scottish Government time after time (like when it notes that the Scottish Futures Trust is a great idea and should be expanded) and notes that the London Government is imposing severe cuts on Scotland.

Labour, in the wobbling frame of David Whitton, has been quick to leap up and say that this is a 'vote of no confidence' in the Scottish Government. Let's look at the vote of confidence that Labour wants from CBI Scotland:

1. Paragraph 26 - Reinstate GARL - a project which has a business case almost as wobbly as the Tram project. Interestingly, part of GARL funded by public money was to be road realignment and a new multi-storey car park at Glasgow Airport, and since the GARL project was cancelled, this private enterprise has announced plans to upgrade access to its business at its own expense. In the meantime, the airport's managing director has called for the rail link to Prestwick to be removed - it would seem that the real consideration is business advantage for BAA, nothing else.

2. Paragraph 15 - cut public sector pay.

3. Para 15 - cut the number of Scottish Local Authorities.

4. Para 17 - privatise Scottish Water; Highlands and Islands Airports; and Scotland's forests. Interestingly, there's a wee caveat in the CBI's document that says that the Statement of Funding should be reviewed to ensure that there is sufficient incentive to ensure sell-off. If only the CBI had actually read the statement, perhaps it would have been clear that all capital receipts go straight back to the Treasury, there is no incentive at all for the Scottish Government to flog assets unless it is to cut running costs - and the record of cutting running costs from privatisation proves it to have less substance than a JK Rowling tale.

5. Para 19 - outsourcing services; in particular, privatising "hospital services, hospital catering and cleaning, GP services, prisons etc". The CBI appears to think that this will make public services less expensive in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

6. Para 20 - all public bodies to contract out payroll and "other back-office work" to private firms.

7. Para 27 - University funding for innovation to be handed over to private businesses.

8. Para 31 - reintroduce the Air Route Development Fund that was ruled illegal by the EU. It's almost like the CBI has never read the Scotland Act and doesn't know that the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament is obliged to gold-plate EU regulations.

9. Para 32 - reintroduce student grants.

Does Labour support these proposals? Really? Tsk tsk tsk.

Mind how you go.


Strathturret said...

I have to admit that Iain Macmillan annoys me. He seems to embody the Scottish 'cringe' writ large.

I've often wondered who elected him? Who exactly does he represent? From what I can see from its website CBI Scotland is essentially a 'regional branch office' of the London based CBI. How many members do they have in Scotland and do these companies have a view or been canvessed by Macmillan?

I would agree that Macmillan agreeing to serve on Calman should taint an individual who wishes to be seen as politically neutral. Of course his bosses in London might not agree with that view.

Andrew said...

Agree that the man with the annoying whiny voice showed his partiality by joining the Calman Omission.
What businessman would do an analysis of a project by ignoring a solution which arguably could be successful?
He seems more like a politician than a businessman, but not one elected by popular vote.