Last week I wrote in this newspaper on the explosive subject of Nigel Farage. I suggested that Mr Farage should step aside as his work was done. He was a disruptor who had changed a nation. He has achieved his vision and it is up to others to deal with the will of the people. He has indeed hung up his spurs it would appear. Although, I’m not so sure…
But writing about Mr Farage comes with issues in Scotland. Sure, he is labelled a Marmite politician – divisive and disruptive. One either enjoys listening to his gravelly, posh English voice or it grinds. One either enjoys his upbeat presentation style or it cheeses you off as showmanship. He has been referred to as a racist – and we cannot forget that poster that many view as encouraging hatred while raising great doubts about immigration policy.
For the record, I do not think Nigel Farage is a racist in any way, shape or form. He hails from that part of the English psyche that we in Scotland resent and do not identify with – the shires. He is not a Londoner, not metropolitan, but more plus fours, clay pigeon shooting and real ale. However, he has created a debate and it is stirring up huge emotion in the aftermath. But, despite this, we need to cut through the emotion and ask ourselves what kind of debate we want in Scotland as there is now the distinct possibility of Indyref2.
This is at the heart of the matter now for me… It worries me, really worries me and motivates me at the same time. I have done two interviews this week on what Brexit means for new businesses and enterprise in general. I say what I believe and it’s just one man’s opinion, then the interview always turns to my perspective now on whether Scotland should push for full blown independence and where do I sit. It is at this moment that I get a little nervous. Indeed, I feel I have to watch what I say in case I am labelled in a certain way. And that’s what’s worrying me.
I recall the last Indyref. I recall internet trolls, so called CyberNats on one side, for instance, and some deeply disturbing anecdotes of mildy threatening behaviour from all sides. I recall some business leaders standing up for one side or the other and getting a rough time as a consequence. I recall private conversations where people were being told that – come the revolution – people would not forget how they voted or whom they supported. It was not a pleasant time as we sought to change the shape of our nation. So, what have we learned?
What are we learning right now from Westminster? What are we learning about the shape of voters in England and how we manage the shifting sands in young and old, Generation X and Generation Y? Those who have final salary pensions and those who probably have no hope or ambition to have a pension. Those who have properties that are now mortgage free having paid them religiously for 25 years and those who have trouble simply getting on the property ladder. It’s all bubbling away right in front of us.
If, and I stress if, Scotland goes for the decider – and surely it will be this time – what kind of debate will we be offered by our politicians? What have they learned from the shenanigans of Brexit? There is no doubt whatsoever that Scotland did not want to leave Europe. It was loud and clear. Transitioning this into an independent Scotland will not be so easy. But, here is my suggestion for all involved should it come to pass: involve everyone and create the debate around business. We need new businesses started and scaled, the jobs that they create, the feelgood factor that comes with it and the investment that it brings to feed the public services that we treasure – teachers, police, doctors and nurses, firefighters, carers, social workers etc…
If our politicians present a business case that is properly validated, then it allows us to make better and more informed decisions. Europe – if we want and need to be in it – why? How much does it benefit us in pounds, shillings and pence – or euros? Can we make Scotland the best place in the world to start or locate your business? Will we open the doors to all who want to come here or will we be specific to the needs of business? How will we reach out to our expats living abroad and leverage all they have?
I think if we are to do this again and stick a border fence at Carlisle, we need to have a full debate on how Scotland can truly become an entrepreneurial nation, where we create our own wealth, while attracting others to locate here.
Tinkering with corporation tax is not enough. It has to be radical. We have to re-engineer how we think and re-imagine how we do things. This way, should Scotland decide to go it alone – but in a European union – it has a well thought-out plan that has business brains at the heart of it.
The lessons are being played out right in front of us now in Westminster. Lets not look foolish should the button be pressed…
• Agitator and disruptor Jim Duffy is Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark.