Iain McMillan of the CBI in Scotland has presented a New Year report card on the SNP government which is at once selective and ideologically driven. Would it have passed muster in his old school, Bearsden Academy? Perhaps it's time Mr McMillan has his own Report Card...here's what it might look like
Learn the value of honesty: Iain will earn respect if he represents himself in an honest manner. He is an ideological unionist with strong political views. That casts serious doubts on his role as an impartial spokesman for industry and commerce. He claims to speak for business in Scotland, yet according to Scotland's most successful entrepreneur, Jim McColl of the engineering group Clyde Blowers, his organisation CBI Scotland represents on a small proportion of business and even those members do not share Iain's personal political views.
Keep up to speed with key developments Iain appears forgetful at times. His report fails to mention one of the key drivers for business - the small business bonus - which the SNP government has used to end the rates burden on hundreds of thousands of small firms.
Beware of double standards: Iain criticises the SNP government for "wasting money" on the National Conversation". But more tax payers money was spent on the Calman Commission of which Iain was a member. The National Conversation included all political perspectives, and was open to the public - unlike Calman which was selective and held behind closed doors. See the leading business figure Ben Thomson's letter to The Scotsman today on hypocrisy.
Economic incoherence: If Iain wishes to become a convincing spokesman for business, he needs to do some work in this area. Iain backs the Scotland Bill's introduction of a Scottish tax collection system that will not enable the Scottish government to manage the economy to promote growth. Yet he opposes full fiscal autonomy, which would allow Scotland to create a business friendly environment using fiscal levers eg tax breaks for research and development, low corporation tax or reduced fuel duty.
Failure to keep abreast of the issues:Iain suggests the SNP Government have taken no action on public service reform despite the fact they have saved millions on central procurement - and that they have set up the Christie Commission to come up with a set of proposals which ensure Scotland can continue to have first-class public services.
Must learn from past mistakes: This is not the first time Iain has allowed his personal political views to colour his statements on behalf of others. Back in 1997 The Herald newspaper reported unhappiness among businesses that he had breached the neutrality of his post by making comments that suggested a Scottish parliament with tax-raising powers would be bad for business.
Needs to develop less reckless attitude to spending other people's money: Iain criticises the SNP's refusal to embrace the PFI/PPP model of finance used by the Conservatives and Labour in the past. However the cost of these projects - revealed to have been incompetently negotiated by Labour in government - was £27.7 billion a year in Scotland at the last count. Much of this goes in interest payments to banks - and fees of big consultancy and accountancy firms involved in negotiating and renegotiating the deals. Many of these raking in vast profits from ordinary tax-payers will be CBI members, as the financial sector dominates the CBI. Iain was hiself a banker for any years. Recent official figures from the UK as a whole show that that we will end up paying for Labour's PFI deals five times over. Remember the banks benefiting are the same institutions bailed out with our money.
Let go of strange obsessions...such as profit before people. Iain sometimes fails to see the human side of matters. In the past he suggested that Scottish Water should be privatised in order to pay for the Forth Road Bridge. He has failed to acknowledge that the SNP government has managed to fund this vital infrastructural improvement without selling off a valuable natural resource. We are able to help our neighbours in Northern Ireland as a result - using our water for humanitarian, not money-making purposes. Iain has also suggested in the past that frail elderly people's personal care should be scrapped in order to fund a rail link to Glasgow airport. I suggest he reads Alex Porter at Newsnet Scotland for further analysis pf this socialism for the rich approach.
Iain's New Year message does acknowledge the infrastructural investment made by the SNP, the council tax freeze and reforms to the planning system which all help business and perhaps explain why we have better employment trends than the UK as a whole. However until he develops the self-control to stop politics clouding professional judgement, he is unlikely to achieve more than a D minus.