Sturgeon & Ross

If Sturgeon and Ross can work together – then why not help businesses too?

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NICOLA STURGEON may have had an unfortunate fall while she and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross visited the Bluevale Community Club in Glasgow recently but that’s about the worst thing anyone can say about it.

Other than that slight blip, it was encouraging to see the leaders of Scotland’s two biggest political parties standing together in public to show their willingness to work together to improve our nation’s shameful record on drug deaths. For two people who seem to be more suited to tearing strips off one another at First Minister’s Questions each week, witnessing them getting together for a common goal was a positive sight to see.

Personally, I hope we will look back and see the visit to Bluevale as a sign of things to come in terms of how our politicians work together because it is sorely needed.

And not just in health, but across all policy areas and especially for business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated our economy and has sent a shockwave through many sectors, including where I practice, from which they will need help to recover. What will not help is going back to the old, divisive, point-scoring, and, at its worst, self-serving politics. Our political leaders need to follow the example of Douglas Ross and Nicola Sturgeon and focus on how they can work together to promote common interests.

Throughout political history, there are examples of positive policy change that happened because those in power decided that working together was more important than the chunter and noise of the chamber floor and playing to their own backbenches and grassroots. From firearms legislation to civil rights and equal marriage, the message from the past could not be more clear – we do more, and we do it better, when we work together.

But just working professionally with fellow politicians won’t be enough to help us stand to our full height and create the productivity, jobs, and prosperity that we need.

Our politicians also have to learn how to work with business. This, sadly, will take more than just a visit but the positive consequences make it a worthwhile goal.

My company, Pillow, is in the business of property management. We work with holiday homes, serviced apartments, and others to help them make the most of their offering. Additionally, we have a record of working with charities, enterprises in other markets, and others to grow our business and take it forward. Essentially, we are a case study in the benefits of working with people rather than against them. Partnership, in our experience, works.

However, the openness and receptive attitude towards working together that we have experienced in our story and in our work with the third sector just hasn’t been replicated in the political sphere, for us or our colleagues. At the moment, our industry, battered as it has been by Covid-19 and its subsequent effects, is facing political intransigence and bitter opposition from the people who represent the communities we are part of.

From the Highlands to the central belt, politicians are talking about curbing and cracking down on our businesses, which not only provide livelihoods for our employees but also support those partners we work with and the wider tourism and accommodation economy.

Worse still, when those who represent our sector have approached politicians, armed with piles of evidence and detailed proposals, it would appear that they have been ignored, rebuked, and told that their story just did not fit their established narrative about us. This is not partnership working and has produced the results that one would and should expect when the right hand is making a rude gesture at the left.

This would be a challenging enough environment for any business to operate in, in and of itself, but it gets worse. The Scottish Government has decided to proceed with its puzzling and counter-productive licensing scheme. Our industry has done its best to raise our voices, as the sector professionals, to warn against doing so but we have been ignored. If we had asked for a perfect example of government not working with business, going ahead with this programme would come straight from central casting.

To be candid, it has many of my colleagues and I deeply worried about how we go forward.

It’s a bit like the attitude many people have to the drug death crisis we have, one might say, in so far as it is wrong-headed and sweeping when precision and targeting is required. Thus, I saw great potential coming from the First Minister and Mr Ross’ visit to Bluevale and what it said about what’s possible in the world of business.

Both prominent figures put their egos aside and stood together to challenge an established narrative on a hot button issue and took some of the heat out of the debate while shining more light on the subject at the same time. If it can be done in health, as it has been, then I see no reason why it cannot be replicated for business.

At Pillow, we are experts in partnership working and that it why I would like to make an open offer to any Scottish politician or public figure. Come talk to us and find out what we can do together and, if you can, bring your colleagues from across the political divide. Together, there’s no limit on what we can do.

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Photo of Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross courtesy of STV.

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