It was both the general tone and the specifics that conjured up thoughts of New Labour, and above all a recognition of what could be achieved in terms of a better society through a strong economy.
Ms Forbes explained during a visit to the Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore: “I would certainly take a more business-friendly approach because I don’t think we can achieve our poverty reduction goals or investment in the NHS and public services if we don’t . We have a growing, prosperous economy. That is a starting position.”
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It’s a perfectly reasonable view, if perhaps not shared by all.
At one end of the political spectrum, we have had the conservative government show that it is anything but pro-business. Brexit has hit and will continue to hit the economy, squeezing growth potential and deepening the UK’s skills and labor shortage crisis, while wrecking smooth trade with the country’s largest trading partner and the world’s largest free trade bloc.
The Tories still like to portray themselves as pro-business, but that self-portrayal doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. And the economic track record of the Conservatives going back to 2010 – since then they have choked off growth with brutal and ill-considered austerity – is bleak.
Furthermore, the behavior of the Boris Johnson administration in the run-up to the Tories’ no-deal Brexit, and some statements by the former Prime Minister and other cabinet members, made it unmistakably clear that the interests of business were not a priority for them. In fact, at times they made it absolutely clear that they didn’t care at all what business had to say about their ideological madness.
Elsewhere on the political spectrum, the Scottish Greens, with whom the SNP has a cooperation agreement in Holyrood, have at times taken a position on growth that some might see as odd.
Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, said in an interview with The Herald on Sunday last year that economic growth is one area where her party has “a fundamentally different position from the Scottish Government”.
It should go without saying that when you create wealth and prosperity through economic growth, you stand the best chance of maximizing living standards across the board.
Of course, there is one important caveat: only if the benefits of such wealth and prosperity are fairly shared. Such fairness can create a virtuous circle that affects economic growth and wealth creation, further improving living standards.
New Labor has had an impressive economic performance for a very long period since coming to power in 1997.
In the autumn of 2008, when the global financial crisis got underway in earnest, things stalled for the UK and other major economies around the world. However, it must be stressed – given that the financial crisis is still a finger pointing at New Labor – that the idea that the Tories would have regulated the city more is fantastic.
The Tony Blair administration seemed to get it spot on with its economic policies.
It created an environment in which businesses could thrive.
And the UK has been seen as an attractive place to invest by companies both at home and abroad.
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Growth has been strong and steady and Gordon Brown, as chancellor for most of New Labor’s reign, deserves great credit, along with Tony Blair, for a process of fairly quiet but very extensive redistribution that fueled further economic prosperity without the sensibilities from Middle England to upset.
Tax credits for lower-income workers were one of many good examples of measures that benefited both the economy and society.
Of course, one must also acknowledge that Ms Forbes deserves credit for emphasizing the importance of being business-friendly for a strong economy, but the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon seems to understand this point much better than is generally acknowledged could the mud fight.
A narrative that the SNP is anti-business has been fueled, particularly during the pandemic, not only by people in the sectors affected by restrictions, whose frustration was understandable, if not always on the money, but also by more politically motivated actors.
Scotland’s very impressive level of foreign investment suggests that the nation is in no way viewed as anti-business by foreign companies.
It was interesting to listen to Deputy First Minister John Swinney at a reception in the Scottish Parliament in January, hosted by the University of Glasgow to honor Scottish economist Adam Smith.
Mr. Swinney spoke about the SNP’s focus on ‘fair work’ and what it means to business and society.
Fair work is an admirable goal and crucial from the perspective of a well-functioning society. And it also affects economic prosperity.
When people are paid properly, they will be more productive. They will also have money in their pockets to spend at companies.
And they will hopefully be lifted from the dire situation of in-work poverty, something which was already a growing problem across the UK under the Conservatives and has been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.
It is worth noting what the SNP has done to alleviate these difficulties and the plague of poverty more generally, with measures such as the Scottish Child Allowance to help low-income families.
These measures should also help the economy as they put money in the pockets of people who have to spend most or all of what they have to live on.
Coming back to Ms Forbes and her comments last week, her decision to emphasize the importance of a strong economy was encouraging. And she has performed strongly as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Economics.
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It was also very encouraging that she highlighted the importance of business in relation to poverty alleviation and funding for the National Health Service and public services.
This definitely brought back memories of the New Labor approach.
Labor in particular often seems far more passionate about its criticism of the SNP in Scotland than disagreements with the Conservatives, and the SNP may not like to hear that either, given its intense rivalry with Labour.
Labor under Sir Keir Starmer looks far less impressive for the economy than under Blair and Brown, especially with the exclusion of a return to the single European market and customs union. However, there are signs that some senior figures in British business are increasingly favoring Labor over Conservatives on the economy, and given the Tory’s track record, that is no surprise.
Whatever the case on that front, and while the outcome of the SNP leadership race remains to be seen, it’s good that Ms Forbes seems to have a firm grasp on the importance of the economy and more importantly what growth can achieve for society .
https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/23370028.kate-forbes-sounds-whole-lot-like-new-labour/?ref=rss Kate Forbes sounds a lot like New Labor