Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Village gossip - Former Financial News owner lambasts SNP's economic policies; considers quitting Scotland

Whilst scurrying around in the undergrowth I stumbled across this rather interesting letter to the Scottish National Party from Angus MacDonald, the former proprietor of Financial News.

Angus - a proud Highlander who gave me one of my first jobs back when I was fresh faced graduate in the early noughties - has taken the unusual (for him, at least) step of airing some fairly strident views on the Scottish National Party's economic policies. The former Army man also says he is considering selling his house and re-locating down south.

The letter to John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, is pasted below:

John Swinney
Cabinet secretary for Finance
Scottish Government
EH99 1SP
3rd August 2015
Dear John,
We have met several times and I have always felt you were a reasonable and sensible politician.
However it is clear to me that the Scottish Nationalist party is taking Scotland in a direction that is already beginning to encourage successful people and their businesses to leave Scotland. The SNP claim to be business friendly, but your tax policies, and rhetoric presumably to leap frog to the left of the Labour party will result in a considerably reduced tax take which will ultimately be borne by those who can least afford to pay.
Your ideal business leader grows his well paid workforce while winning market share from a global customer base, paying substantial and fair taxes along the way.
If that business leader sees LBBT (stamp duty) at top end houses more than twice that of England, if he believes that land reform legislation may result in him having his land taken from him and that he cannot leave that land to say his daughter to farm it rather than equally to all five children. If he reads about new bands of council taxes being considered on higher value property and a local income tax based on ability to pay then you can guarantee that many will be wondering whether to relocate their business down south.
We read that 26% of income tax is paid by the top 1% of earners, so 18,000 of us. Of these maybe 1/3rd are not Scottish and therefore heft to the country. Business leaders are frightened to speak out after the whipping that those who did received last October, but they wont have forgotten how aggressive the Nationalist were.
After the substantial majority voting No at the referendum, and the Nationalist declaration that there wouldn’t be another for a generation, business people relaxed somewhat. The concerns of most business leaders of different currencies, tax rates, legislation etc was nervously set aside.
Now with the drop in the oil price and the prospect of losing our Barnett formula top up combined with c.50% of our GDP being from the public sector a flourishing business sector is crucial to ensure we can make ends meet.
You need to redirect your policies to the centre, get the cost of running the country down to a level that is affordable, make Scotland an attractive place for people to invest and nourish those big tax payers to protect your income.
My valuable house is up for sale, but not a single viewer. I employ hundreds of people across several businesses with Scottish registered companies, yet more than 90% of our business is outwith Scotland. I have given grants of well over a million pounds to help small west coast companies get going. If passionate highlanders like me are considering moving South, then you have a problem. Scotlands already shaky finances are about to become precarious.
Yours sincerely
Angus MacDonald


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