Between the lines: Forget Private Fraser, we are not all doomed yet

GLOOM. There's a lot of it about. And doom. There's been quite a bit of that too.

In fact there has been so much G&D around, that us hacks are running out of ways to describe the post-credit crunch world.

There are only so many times you can write of storm clouds, hurricanes, whirlwinds and other meteorological metaphors.

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It would be daft, of course, to pretend that the outlook for the world of business and finance is all blue skies and endless sun. Sorry, couldn't resist.

A year ago few people had heard of subprime mortgages, fewer understood what they were and fewer still warned of their likely impact on global capitalism.

Now subprime is a subject you hear talked about in pubs and hairdressers, never mind the plush offices of the finance houses in Edinburgh and the City of London.

The credit crunch has even become the raw material for sketches by our leading satirists.

At a recent Scottish business awards ceremony, a clip of Bird and Fortune's savagely accurate parody of the origins of the credit crunch was played to guests.

As the two took us from the selling of dodgy loans to poor, black Americans, through their re-packaging, re-selling, and (for a while at least) fortune-making trading, there were some nervous laughs in the audience.

No-one in the room had been stupid enough to get involved in that kind of game, the fixed smiles of the financiers said.

But even if that were true, and let us charitably assume it is, then no-one in Scotland – or the UK – has avoided the fallout from the creed-is-good, make-the-sale-damn-the-consequences culture that pervaded in the USA for long enough to undermine the world financial system.

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Every day on these pages the consequences of this cavalier approach to business are reported.

One UK bank has had to be nationalised, others are making huge cash calls on their investors, house builders are sacking workers, high street sales are down.

As a result, the rest of this column could be taken up by a "woe, woe, and thrice woe" analysis of the problems which have beset business since last summer.

But that would not only be too depressing in these dismal times it would be to present too pessimistic a view of the economy, and the state of affairs in Scotland in particular.

There is a tendency north of the Border to descend into collective Caledonian catatonic despair. To avoid this, it is important to retain some perspective.

First, as we reported on these pages yesterday, there are areas of the economy where Scotland appears not to be suffering as badly as the UK as a whole.

Scotland is bucking the trend in retail sales, executive redundancies and the performance of the IT sector.

We also reported that tomorrow the nation's increasingly important digital industry will be urged to seize the opportunities presented by a $1.5 trillion world market.

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Beyond that, there are further signs that the Private Fraser "we're doomed" tendency is wrong, or overly gloomy.

The oil business – the smaller firms still prospecting in the North Sea and those that supply the industry globally – is doing well. Naturally, the soaring oil price helps, but every cloud has a silver lining.

And even over the last generally depressing month there have been positive developments in Scotland.

Economist Tony Mackay has reported increased whisky exports, Highland Spring's expansion, First Group's 125 million order for new buses.

Yesterday HBOS took the first step to refloat the bond market boat, with the sale of 500m worth of home-loan-backed securities.

And as we report today, there are positive, if modest, announcements from Scottish companies like Axeon, Thus and Optos.

It would be foolish to suggest that all is well, that the global economy has weathered the storm or that Scotland will not continue to be buffeted by the tailwind of hurricane subprime.

But we should be wary. There is, perhaps, just too much gloom about. And a bit too much doom too.