By George Kerevan 
  
It is that time of the year when the nation’s self-appointed guardians give us their seasonal messages, in the hope that a dearth of regular news will grant them a headline or two. Unfortunately, these homilies usually extol motherhood, apple pie and the blindingly obvious, so the opportunity is wasted.

Admittedly, David Cameron managed to raise eyebrows this year by actually mentioning Jesus in his Christmas message – a reference that modern politicians usually eschew, doubtless because they already believe they are speaking ex cathedra.

Newly re-elected Barack Obama was less synthetic in his message, but then he could hardly avoid mentioning Hurricane Sandy or the massacre of innocents at Newtown, Connecticut. However, the fact that the US president issued his festive communication from sunny Hawaii rather than wintery New England rather undermined his point.

Johann Lamont, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, kept her Christmas message to the banal, claiming that in 2013 she would stick up for “families”. For the record, I don’t underestimate the potential appeal of Ms Lamont’s tactic; namely, taking Scottish Labour back to its West of Scotland, class-war roots. I’m just a wee bit depressed by her retro approach.

Then we come to my favourite: the festive appeal of David Watt, head of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Scotland. Mr Watt used his Christmas message to criticise “the current obsession with our future governance”, which is a long-winded way of saying the independence debate. Mr Watt wants the referendum discussion suspended until the autumn of 2014 so Scotland can “focus on the wealth creation agenda and rebuild what was once the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial nation”.

The IoD is not, as you might imagine, a group which speaks for business, but a membership organisation awarded a royal charter in 1906 – when the British Empire was beginning to feel the full weight of American and German industrial competition – to promote professional management practice. In the careful words of the IoD Scotland website: “The Institute of Directors exists to help, support, advise and set standards for directors”.

Which suggests to me that in entering the political arena – even in the disguise of a Christmas message – Mr Watt has laid himself open to the accusation that he has strayed from his organisation’s royal charter to improve the competence of company directors. (I say this, by the way, as a former member of IoD Scotland.)

However, let’s be sporting at this festive time of the year and examine what Mr Watt has to say. To begin: is he really serious in suggesting that the referendum campaign should be halted for the next 18 months?

Whatever your views on independence, the electorate gave a mandate to the SNP to hold a referendum, and the Westminster government has given legal sanction for this referendum to take place in 2014. The Yes and No campaigns are already rolling. Are we to conclude that the executive director of IoD Scotland really imagines this political bandwagon can simply be parked at the kerbside? (The IoD at a UK level has no such qualms about engaging in constitutional debate regarding British membership of the EU – it campaigns constantly for “radical reform” of that institution.)

Common sense suggests Mr Watt is being rhetorical, but that’s hardly helpful. Nor is it redolent of the focus and strategic clarity recommended for company directors in the IoD’s excellent training manuals. The referendum campaign is not going to go away, so Mr Watt might better occupy his time with trying to insert into the public debate some ideas on the Scottish economy; for example, on reforming corporate governance should there be a Yes vote.

I respect the fact that Mr Watt thinks the constitutional debate is secondary to re-booting the Scottish economy, especially in a time of austerity and possible triple-dip recession. However, I would direct him to his own argument, that Scotland needs to “rebuild what was once the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial nation”.

As a Yes voter, I could not put it better myself. When the IoD was created, Clydeside industry and technology dominated the world. At the end of the First World War, Scotland was set to lead in the global manufacture of aircraft and motor vehicles. A huge swathe of 20th-century technology, from television to radar, was the fruit of Scottish inventors.

Does it not occur to Mr Watt to ask why this lead was thrown away? That it might have to do with the dominance of the City of London and a financial culture that promoted short-term profits over long-term investment. That Scottish entrepreneurial talent was almost destroyed by nationalisation and centralisation of management in London after the Second World War. That economic policy is still set in London by one of the most centralised political machines in the western world.

Will Mr Watt not concede that those of us who desire Scottish independence want it precisely to seize control of the fiscal and monetary levers needed to recover Scotland’s lost entrepreneurial energy? That far from being a distraction, the debate over economic sovereignty is central to Scotland’s recovery?

To give one example: Mr Watt argues for the Scottish Government to show leadership in promoting investment in transport infrastructure and broadband connections. But even after the recent changes to the Scotland Act, Holyrood still lacks the capital borrowing powers to drive such capital investment.

I have a great deal of respect for Mr Watt’s work at the IoD. And I can sympathise with his frustrations about the level of the referendum debate. The Yes side seems to want to downplay the disruption of independence – yet Scotland needs an economic revolution, otherwise why bother? The No side keeps implying that Scotland is an economic basket case that will always require subsidy – a recipe for economic stagnation, if ever there was one. There is no Chinese wall between politics and economics. Unless we sort the politics, we can’t sort the economics.


Courtesy of George Kerevan and the Scotsman newspaper

Comments  

 
# Rafiki 2012-12-28 20:02
Excellent - no regeneration without independence; for that matter, no economy without independence.
 
 
# Marian 2012-12-28 21:30
The head of the IOD must be economically illiterate if he doesn't recognise that Scotland will always be doomed to remain an economic backwater within the UK as long as it is governed by Westminster.

It doesn't take a John Maynard Keynes to instantly recognise that shaking off the dead hand of Westminster is precisely the medicine that Scotland needs to stimulate long-term sustainable economic growth in order to make the people of Scotland more wealthy.
 
 
# bodun 2012-12-29 19:23
And CBI Scotland has been having a go as well:
"CBI asks Michael Moore more than 170,000 questions on dependence "
bbc.scotlandshire.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# sneckedagain 2012-12-28 23:55
O/T
From Electoral Calculus.
Their projections on Westminster voting intentions as of now have the SNP with 15 seats (including all LibDem seats but one) but, just a significantly, in second place in 42 of the 44 others. I see a significant number of that 42 as very possible gains. I amawarew thewre may well never be another Westminster Election with any relevance to Scotland but I would make two points.
1) The over-riding dynamic in Westminster elections in Scotland is to keep the Tory out and this skews the vote.This does not operate in Labour's favour in a independence referendum which offers a much better way of keeping the Tory out.
2)The present Westminster government is inherently unstable. At any point the LibDems could (foolishly in political terms) decide they have had enough and pull out. This would mean a General Election and we should have SNP candidates chosen (which would provide another layer of SNP campaign activity)
 
 
# clootie 2012-12-29 07:00
Good article George - thank you.

We lost the lead due to a lack of investment (it was easier to blame the work force).

We require a re-industrialisati on of Scotland. The remaining Oil & Gas reserves will be the cash engine to create new industries and attract investment.

Perhaps the next generation can grow up in a nation that stands for fairness and a positive future.
 
 
# mealer 2012-12-29 07:31
I kind of understand where Mr Watt is coming from.Navel gazing etc.But I dont think its possible to talk about economic advancement without including the independence debate.Experience shows that Scotland will be an under-achiever while constrained by London rule.Its time to crack on.
 
 
# Hugo 2012-12-29 08:00
An excellent article.

In his Company, does Mr Watt have the same approach to forward planning; does he leave it until the last minute?

Or perhaps he does not believe in planning?

The beauty of not planning is that when disaster strikes, it comes as a complete and utter surprise!
 
 
# UpSpake 2012-12-29 08:46
Big mistake here Mr. Kerevan. The SNP are not looking for Fiscal and Monetary Indepenedence, they feel they can do fine with just one of these - Fiscal.
How on earth they construe independence with leaving control of money, interest rates and supply with the Bank of England I have no idea.
Scotland will under their plans still be dictated too by Westminster, that is something I just can't understand.
Ignored and squeezed by London, over-regulated by Brussels - a bizarre scenario.
 
 
# rabb 2012-12-29 11:43
Quoting UpSpake:
Big mistake here Mr. Kerevan. The SNP are not looking for Fiscal and Monetary Indepenedence, they feel they can do fine with just one of these - Fiscal.
How on earth they construe independence with leaving control of money, interest rates and supply with the Bank of England I have no idea.
Scotland will under their plans still be dictated too by Westminster, that is something I just can't understand.
Ignored and squeezed by London, over-regulated by Brussels - a bizarre scenario.


It's a simple short term solution upspake. The people of Scotland in time will decide whether that's a long term option or whether we should join the Euro or even introduce a Scottish pound.
The point is, it's a decision we will make and not one foisted on us by westminster.
 
 
# sneckedagain 2012-12-29 09:34
I have no idea why Upspake thinks that grappling with the uncertainty and disruption of offering the introduction of a differnt currency as we become independent in any way increases the likelihood of us a achieving a YES vote. Retaining sterling initially strikes me as a very sensible arrangement, particularly as we have a huge interest in maintaining the stability of the Bank of England which we own 10% of.
 
 
# Ready to Start 2012-12-29 11:19
Upspake

You are still holding onto 19th Century ideals but in 21st Century all countries are interdependent.

An newly independent Scotland should go for monetary and fiscal stability in the early years then make its way in the world by joining the Euro or leaving the EU as its people decide what is best for Scotland in the future.

btw re Alasdair Gray you should read "Unstated: Writers on Scottish Independence" Reviewed at kenmacleod.blogspot.co.uk/
 
 
# Barontorc 2012-12-29 12:05
Exactly my thinking. It's a fluid situation controlled by the SNP/Scottish Government.

As to this 'statement' from the IoD – it’s published without any searching question thereafter. If it toes the NO line – anything goes.

Why does IoD (Scotland) sign off an article, specifically regarding Scotland's future lacking comment on a possible outcome, such as, what will it all look like when Scotland is independent?

Scotland cannot succeed under the pressing debt burden carried by the UK. It can prosper free from the UK. It's a 'no brainer', some would think, but, what's the IoD (Scotland) view on that scenario? We really need to stop acting like the proverbial ostrich.
 
 
# Breeks 2012-12-29 12:23
@Upspake.

To what extent do you hold the Bank of England responsible for the illegal war in Iraq? The McCrone Report? Nuclear weapons on the Clyde?

You don't have to like Sterling for it to remain the best option in the short/transitional term.

There are also two years in the ERM as a precursor to joining the Euro, and I don't know enough about the Krona or other currencies to judge which would suit us any better.

I'm not overly keen on Sterling myself, and if that report about the failure of Britain in Money Week is proven to be accurate, then Sterling might not be the safe harbour we think it is anyway.

But never forget, Independence isn't the choice, but the freedom to make that choice.
 
 
# derick fae Yell 2012-12-29 12:46
Well that will be the knighthood in the bag for the future 'Sir David Watt'!
 
 
# george davie 2012-12-29 14:05
Surprised this hasn't been picked up by Newsnet or its readers. (Or maybe it has?)

"March for Independence - 2013"

www.facebook.com/.../

(Scroll down slightly for article)
 
 
# gus1940 2012-12-29 17:37
Why hold the march right in the middle of the Equinoxial Gales Period.

We were lucky with a glorious day this year and if I remember correctly it was bracketed by lousy weather on both sides.
 
 
# cirsium 2012-12-29 15:24
thanks Mr Kerevan for a succinct response to Mr Watt. Westminster has managed Scotland's decline since the end of the First World War. It does not have to be this way. We are at the beginning of a second industrial revolution which could allow us to develop a sustainable, fully functioning economy. Independence will give us the freedom to work on developing this economy.
 
 
# ButeHouse 2012-12-29 18:39
Thanks for the info george davie. I have Labour for Independence on my Facebook but hadn't been there for a week or so.

I think the YES campaign has picked up two major players which will swing the result our way.

One is Labour for Independence who will be able to reach parts which no other YES group will be able to reach.

The other is Catalonia having their Independence Referendum in the same year. The enthusiasm of the Catalonians will reassure thousands of Scots who would love to vote YES but whose current levels of confidence and self esteem would make them less likely to vote YES.

Stay Positive - VOTE YES
 

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