Scotland should focus on a UK-wide Brexit deal rather than constitutional issues in order to grow the economy, the head of a leading business group has said.
CBI president Paul Drechsler said Holyrood and Westminster need to work together, with businesses, adding “a successful UK economy needs all its component parts firing on all cylinders”.
Mr Drechsler also spoke of the need to diversify Scotland’s economy from its reliance on the offshore sector, and highlighted companies’ difficulties with business rates.
He stressed that what he sees as an inability of the Aberdeen economy to cope with losses in the North Sea industry due to lack of diversity should be a “wake-up call for everyone”.
He said: “The best thing the Scottish Government could do is focus on things will help business and help the economy. By thinking creatively in the pursuit of growth. Growth that will lead to other sectors, not just oil and financial services, taking the strain.”
On business rates, he said: “We want to see rates reform fast-tracked. And ideally, we’d see costings and economic impact assessments in the future Budget process, to make sure that people consider the real impact of any changes.”
Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative finance spokesman, said: “The CBI has spoken for job creators and workers all over Scotland. We have had enough of the SNP’s endless constitutional division. We desperately need a government focused on the day job.
“Nicola Sturgeon must listen. Scotland is on the brink of a recession. That’s because the SNP’s unwanted demand for a second referendum has slammed the brakes on Scotland’s economy.”
Addressing the CBI Scotland annual lunch in Edinburgh on Friday, he said: “Everybody knows that business abhors uncertainty. And it doesn’t matter how keen Scottish businesses are to thrive, at the moment there’s more than enough uncertainty to go round.
“That’s why we at the CBI think that the current priority should be clarity on what a future UK-EU deal could look like, and ensuring the needs of Scotland are included. Rather than constitutional issues.
“The new UK government, whoever it is, will have to take action quickly. In particular, they should secure the status of EU citizens in the UK, rule out a collapse into World Trade Organisation trade rules, and start conversations about our future trading relationship with the EU as soon as possible. And all the while taking Scotland, and the other devolved nations, with them.
“These three quick wins could get negotiations off to a cracking start… and help give business the certainty it needs to hire and invest.”