Scotland’s government should use the departure of first minister Nicola Sturgeon as a chance to reset its troubled relationship with business, said an influential former adviser to the Scottish National Party administration.
The comments by Benny Higgins, who in 2020 compiled a report commissioned by the government on post-pandemic economic recovery, underscore widespread discontent in business circles at the party’s record under Sturgeon.
“There is a sense that business is way down the list of priorities,” said Higgins, a former Tesco Bank chief executive who now runs the estates of the Duke of Buccleuch.
He said the election of a successor to Sturgeon, who announced her intention to resign as first minister and SNP leader on Wednesday, would be an opportunity to “reset” the priorities of a government that had largely failed to act on the suggestions of his 2020 report.
These included calls for accelerated investment in digital infrastructure, urgent action to support universities and a more streamlined planning process. “I don’t think they’ve done very much,” Higgins said.
Business leaders have privately complained that the first minister, a former community lawyer with few business ties, has been less sympathetic to their interests than her predecessor — Alex Salmond, a former economist who counted corporate figures among his friends.