How nationalism can sow negative perceptions towards investing in Scotland

How nationalism can sow negative perceptions towards investing in Scotland

by Grant Simpson
article from Thursday 23, February, 2017

THE UNITED KINGDOM has been a beacon of justice, democracy and fairness for centuries. A stable country and viewed as one of opportunity, borne out by the vast numbers of international citizens who have chosen to make Britain their home.

Ours is a country where a working class lad from Brixton, John Major, was able to become Prime Minister, and a minister's son from Kirkcaldy, Gordon Brown, also made it to the same position. It is truly a place of opportunity where a person can achieve virtually anything their personal capabilities will allow. It is true that those with the more robust family structures around them will find that success more easy to achieve, but that might be said of any country in the world. There will always be work needed to improve social mobility and to break cycles of deprivation, but if there is a place on earth where this is recognised and fought for, it is surely the United Kingdom!

In that light, how might international investors and business partners view us Scots when they see a noisy element of our countrymen decrying our way of life? Politically, our image has become one of angry men and women, eternally aggrieved and engaged in aggressive, threatening rhetoric. That aggression and those threats are directed towards the structures of the United Kingdom. The very structures that have made Britain the stable and desirable place it is. We appear angry and aggressive towards a society and way of life that is opportunity laden and as safe as possible in the increasingly fragile geopolitical situation that is the 21st century.

Scotland's political representatives at Westminster by and large see their role as being to oppose, object and spoil. They do not give an impression of positivity. They do not give an impression of acting collaboratively with any intent to improve matters for any citizens, never mind their own constituents. They give an impression of being against anything and everything that might be promoted by any party, other than the Scottish National Party.

So if we cannot ever be seen to agree or collaborate with good people in our own United Kingdom, how might third parties view us from outside? If looking for a business partner, do you want one who is eternally aggrieved, aggressive and threatening to its existing partners? Particularly when those partners are amongst the fairest, most open, honest and decent people possible? If a prospective business partner is shown to be spiteful, unwilling to act collaboratively and positively with, effectively, their own people, why on earth would you get involved with them? If that is how they relate to their closest associates, how could you trust them to deal with you any differently?

I genuinely worry about Scotland. Our economy is lagging that of England, where growth is being achieved. I travelled to London and Manchester last week and was taken with the number of tower cranes there were in and around the city centres. Considerably more activity, it felt to me, than in my home territory of Edinburgh. Might that be because we are open to being interpreted as bad business partners?

I was meeting clients who develop student accommodation buildings. We had done some work together in Scotland historically but they have decided not to do any more here for now. We laughed as one of their key figures remarked, "you're all angry and mad up there". It was said in semi-jest and whilst we laughed, the reality was that here was a business that didn't think Scotland a good place to invest at the moment. The thought of the income our business had planned from projects they have since pulled back from, now lost, wasn't so funny.

We are fortunate because we are being engaged by this client on England-based projects. So a bit more travelling for us and welcome workload to help pay people's mortgages, nonetheless. Other Scots businesses might not be as fortunate as us.

I can't help but feel our experience is part of a much wider problem though. The economic picture in Scotland has lagged rUK for the past few years. That lag has existed since the run up to the 2014 referendum and shows no real sign of improving. The SNP now cling to the more recent circumstance of the Brexit vote, blaming that for our economic struggles. But it's been happening for longer than that. The Brexit excuse is all the more depressing as it illustrates an abject failure to accept or interrogate the reality of our situation. Rather than do that, our political representatives resort to the angry, threatening rhetoric and push that agenda of grievance. I find it difficult to understand how that is meant to help our economic fortunes improve.

Scots, like our countrymen throughout the UK, are creative and resourceful. We've made wealth for ourselves, our people and our business partners across the centuries. We did that by working hard and collaboratively, such that good people wanted to trade and do business with us. We are though in danger of hiding these qualities from potential investors who look in from the outside and might see our politics as reflective of the people we are now. I think we have grounds to be worried.

ThinkScotland exists thanks to readers' support - please donate in any currency and often

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter & like and share this article
To comment on this article please go to our facebook page