Sir Tom Hunter: Politicians and civil servants should not tell businesses how to make decisions in aftermath of coronavirus

Scotland's first billionaire warned politicians and civil servants should not tell businesses how to make decisions in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sir Tom Hunter, 59, has called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to let business leaders, who have the experience and expertise lead the country's economic recovery from the lockdown.

The entrepreneur – who became Scotland's first homegrown billionaire in 2007 – said the Scottish Government should acknowledge its lack of business experience “in the civil service, their agencies and in Cabinet”.

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Sir Tom, who made his fortune through property and sports goods, spoke out following the publication of a report by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, chaired by former Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins.

Sir Tom Hunter made his money through property and sports goods.Sir Tom Hunter made his money through property and sports goods.
Sir Tom Hunter made his money through property and sports goods.

It recommended a series of measures, including guaranteeing secure jobs for young people for at least two years and warned of a 33 per cent fall in Scottish GDP over the coming months, as well as a £6 billion 'stimulus' needed for the country to recover.

It also highlighted existing problems in the relationship between the Scottish Government and business leaders, with a response expected by the end of July.

Sir Tom, from New Cumnock, East Ayrshire, believes business leaders should shape the implementation plan.

He said: “If there was ever a time for the Scottish Government to acknowledge their lack of business experience in the civil service, their agencies and in Cabinet it is now, not as an admission of guilt but a recognition of what you do best and we do best.

“And, to be clear, so the same is true of us in business; many of us, me included, don't understand how government works and that's a recognition of what you do best.

“We need to come together respecting each other's skill sets, harness them and accelerate them.

“So First Minister and Fiona Hyslop let the customer, let business come together and write your answer guided by a lead civil servant who understands business and your budgets, but with no sacred cows.

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“Do not have the civil service or your agencies write an implementation plan for a customer they don't really understand; let us in business take this on, trust business to do it and work with you on this.

“I know we can engage the best brains from around the world on this and the best in Scotland."

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative finance spokesman, said: "During the coronavirus pandemic we've seen just how inventive and enterprising Scotland's business community can be.

“But that ingenuity is met by incompetence and disinterest by the SNP.

“Over more than a decade in government, the nationalists have proved they don't understand business, or respect the need for the economy to thrive.

“For once, the SNP should listen to individuals like Sir Tom Hunter and act on his advice."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As we restart the economy and work through recovery needs as the report from the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, led by Benny Higgins, sets out, we will need all of Scotland to step up to the mark and that will require a new partnership between business and government, as well as civic Scotland.

“We will set out our response by the end of the July but action has to start before then and will most definitely need partnership between business and Government.

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“The Scottish Government recognises the extensive business contributions to the advisory group's report, contributions from the Hunter Foundation and the need for all of Scotland to pull together to steer us to recovery.”

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