In a post-Brexit world, business engagement is more important than ever.
In that context it is a great privilege to take on my new role as the SNP's Head of Business and Economy Engagement, as part of the SNP’s new Brexit team at Westminster. We are acutely aware that the process will be complex with many moving parts and that we do not yet know all of the questions, let alone have all the answers. My role is to help put a greater framework around that engagement so that businesses small and large can set out for us the precise, practical scenarios that they encounter or anticipate - and we will do all we can to help.
On a daily basis we hear practical examples of the Brexit impact – Unilever pulling out of Tesco, delayed investment in Nissan because of Brexit and from my own constituency of Livingston, a service company that received letters from around 5 of its suppliers passing on the price increases in the aftermath of the vote. The atmosphere for businesses of all sizes is volatile and to ensure responsible business practice stability and the right support, is key.
To this end, and in light of the revelations earlier this week of RBS's "Project Dash for Cash" to make money from businesses who were in the Global Restructuring Group - due to either their own default or a bank-contrived default; I am keen to further explore the creation of a Small Business Commissioner for Scotland.
The UK Government brought forward their plans earlier in the year as part of the Enterprise Bill with the general role of a Small Business Commissioner for the whole of the U.K. It will give advice and information and assist small businesses in payment disputes with larger firms.
The concept was much vaunted as being modelled on the Australian one which has been in operation for over 10 years in some parts of the country. I visited Australia earlier this year to find out exactly how similar the proposed UK model is and the answeris, not very. Australia has a population of 24 million, (the UK is 65 million) an overall Federal Small Business Commissioner and individual state commissioners to mirror the Australian Government structure.
I visited the Consumer Authority and met with the Small business Commissioners of New South Wales and Victoria. All of whom have succeeded in significant success of advocating on behalf of business, having a single structure for disputes and ensuring there is a fair and level playing field for settling disputes. It was very clear to me Scotland with it’s own legal jurisdiction and legislature would benefit from it’s own commissioner.
Post-Brexit, it seems that obvious to me that we need to do things our own way and tailor support to our own business community. So many of the issues and concerns of business are being lost in the post Brexit pantomime, we must stay focussed on the issues and help find solutions. I and my SNP colleagues will do all we can to do that.
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