AS I SEE IT
Complaints over SNIB directors’ pay shows Scottish Labour still doesn’t understand business, writes TERRY MURDEN
Boris Johnson’s decision to pull out of the CBI’s annual conference on Monday handed his Labour opposite number an opportunity to present himself as the leader who cares about business. After years of Corbynomics helped crush the party’s hopes of election success, he certainly needs a clean break and an honest relationship with the private sector.
He was given a helping hand by Lord Bilimoria, the CBI’s new president and crossbencher, who could not have been more gushing towards the still fresh-faced leader, praising him for a speech that was “just what we wanted to hear”. Sir Keir looked almost embarrassed by the Cobra beer tycoon’s enthusiasm for his address.
Alas, while the former lawyer was telling an 8,000-strong online audience of company leaders that his party could now be trusted to run the country, his troops in Scotland were doing their best to undermine their leader’s pledge of a “pro-business” agenda.
Sir Keir may have left the door open rather enigmatically to favouring “changes of ownership” – a reference to his predecessor’s call for widespread nationalisation – but he would surely not countenance the old-style envy politics that still pervades his party north of the border.
Within a couple of hours of eight non-executive directors being named to sit on the board of the new Scottish National Investment Bank, Labour’s Finance spokesman Jackie Baillie was laying into the £21,250 each will earn for 25 days work each year. That’s £850 a day.
For many professional workers, lawyers, accountants and corporate finance advisers, that would be regarded as a bare minimum. It’s hardly unusual for consultants to charge upwards of £300 per hour, which works out at considerably more than £850 a day. And just to let Ms Baillie into a secret, there are a lot of them in Scotland.
Yes, it’s a sad fact that thousands of workers are facing redundancy and problems finding money to pay their bills, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop paying the going rate if we want the best people to do a job, whether it’s a banker… or an MSP (£64,470 v the average Scottish salary of £24,486).
Ms Baillie, who casually and ignorantly referred to the new SNIB board as “anonymous” when their names and full biographies were published with the statement, shows once again how politicians continue to be out of touch with the business world and simple principles of supply and demand.
It creeps into all of Scottish Labour’s thinking: a drive to the bottom, higher taxes on anyone with ambition, and a lack of understanding about how to create the wealth that would finance all their pet projects.
Scottish Labour, of course, felt the new SNIB was not grand enough and wanted an even bigger budget for an expanded investment bank (not sure who would pay for it, but I can guess). If Ms Baillie thinks the salaries being paid to the SNIB are too much, it’s hard to imagine whom she might have had in mind to run something on a much larger scale.