SNP-Green deal: Cautious, if muted, welcome from business community on agreement

The body that represents estate owners and land managers across Scotland has criticised “punitive” land reform measures detailed in the SNP’s power-sharing arrangement with the Scottish Greens.

Scottish Land & Estates said while a draft policy programme offered some areas of optimism, both parties should resist pursuing “an ideological approach” rather than one that brings people together.

While some predicted the deal would lead to a backlash from the business community and the oil and gas sector, the reaction so far falls somewhere between muted and cautiously welcome.

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Some areas around which the two parties have considerable differences, such as aviation policy, have been excluded from the agreement. Elsewhere some of the more radical proposals detailed by the Scottish Greens in their Holyrood manifesto earlier this year have not made the cut.

One pledge in the newly released document is for a “wide-ranging consultation of land reform proposals”, ahead of the introduction of legislation by the end of 2023. It also proposes the application of a public interest test to transfers of large-scale landholdings, which will include a right of pre-emption in favour of community buyouts.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The policy programme as laid out provides some areas of optimism, such a commitment to developing regional land use partnerships, increasing woodland creation targets and financially supporting food production in return for improving natural capital.

“That said, we see the prospect of punitive land reform measures – despite two land reform acts in the last 20 years – and pursuing further culling of deer. Neither of these measures will serve the environment or rural communities well.”

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The body that represents estate owners and land managers across Scotland has criticised “punitive” land reform measures detailed in the SNP’s power-sharing arrangement with the Scottish Greens.

Elsewhere, OGUK, a leading representative body for the UK offshore oil and gas industry, said it welcomed the parties’ agreement of the industry’s importance, and emphasised the continuing importance of the sector to the Scottish economy.

In its April manifesto, the Greens vowed to call on the UK Government to not only stop issuing new licenses for oil and gas exploration and development, but to revoke undeveloped licenses, and end subsidies and tax breaks for the industry.

The draft policy programme, however, essentially emphasises the need for a “truly just” transition that is “fast enough to protect the planet”, with both parties noting the UK cannot continue with “unlimited recovery of hydrocarbons” if the aims of the Paris Agreement are to be upheld.

The programme supports the call for Scottish Government involvement in a pre-production oil and gas licence climate checkpoint review, and commits to a decade-long £500 million just transition fund for the north east of Scotland and Moray.

The deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens was ratified on Friday.

Jenny Stanning, OGUK’s external relations director, said: ““Oil and gas also supports 72,000 jobs in Scotland. These are the people who will drive the just transition.

"We must not lose these critical skills and we must protect our energy communities around the country as we move towards net zero.”

CBI Scotland tweeted the agreement between the parties was “long on spending commitments and short on consultation with business”, but stopped short of specific criticisms about the policy programme.

It will be consulting with its members this week on specific areas detailed in the 51-page document, but it has stressed the need to ensure the business sector is at the centre of the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Director Tracy Black said: “With the Programme for Government just around the corner, we desperately need all parties pulling in the same direction to put jobs and the economy at the very top of Scotland’s political agenda.

“Any proposed agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens should recognise the immense contribution that enterprise makes to social and economic life in Scotland, not seek to shut business out of the discussion on economic recovery.

“Without a thriving and competitive business sector delivering investment, jobs and growth, any plans for ambitious future spending are destined to fall short.”

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland also urged both parties to focus on local economic recovery in the weeks and months to come.

Andrew McRae, the FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “During this year’s Scottish Parliament election, there was cross-party consensus that independent and local firms are key to recovery. Both the SNP and the Scottish Greens spoke to the pivotal role smaller businesses have to play in community renewal; in procurement reform; and in meeting our climate change obligations.

“As these parties look to strengthen their ties, we would urge their senior figures to remember that many local firms find themselves in a precarious position after the upset of the last year.

“We would therefore ask for a focus on building on the fragile optimism in the Scottish small business community, avoiding heaping new pressures on these operators.”

He added: “We look forward to working with all parts of the Scottish Government on our shared ambitions to get Scotland’s smaller firms back on their feet.”

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said it would take time to work through the details of the agreement, and that it was essential to see “the full and cumulative economic impact assessment of any new measures on our fishing communities”.

Elspeth Macdonald, its chief executive, said: “The Scottish fishing industry is already climate-smart, producing highly nutritious protein food with a much lower carbon footprint than meat and even most vegetables.

"There are policies here that will inevitably impact on our industry and on how we produce our climate-smart food. We want to be engaged with ministers and civil servants on the detail as soon as possible so that we can share our knowledge on how to achieve common goals while still maintaining a healthy sector.”

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