Following months of inaction and Tory infighting since the Brexit vote, the UK Government still haven’t got their act together, the short term meltdown we’re experiencing looks set to get much worse.
Recent talks between the UK Government and devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have borne no fruit with the UK Government refusing to act on the will of the Scottish People and seek a way to protect Scotland from the prospect of a hard Brexit. Once again, the will of England decides for the remainder of the UK.
The inaction from the UK Government is in sharp contrast to the SNP Scottish Government with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon convening an expert group to explore all options for retaining Scotland’s EU status and announcing a £100 million economic stimulus package.
The First Minister and Scottish Cabinet have also held a public discussion with EU nationals living in Scotland – the first gathering of its kind to be held in the UK.
EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living abroad still face uncertainty, our economy has taken a massive hit and the Bank of England predicts that Brexit will cost 250,000 UK jobs.
Polling analysis shows that two of the most important sectors in Scotland’s economy have been put at risk by Brexit – strengthening the SNP’s case for Scotland’s position within the EU to be protected.
Over a quarter of EU nationals polled say they are less likely to visit the UK on holiday, with this figure at 37 per cent amongst Italian tourists who alone contributed £56 million to the Scottish economy in 2014.
Similarly, Brexit has put at risk the huge success of the Scottish food and drink sector, with findings showing 27 per cent of EU citizens less likely to buy British goods or services following the result of the referendum. Again Italians are most likely to boycott UK products with 43 per cent indicating this preference.
Scottish Government figures show that the EU is the biggest destination for Scottish food exports, with food and drink exports amounting to £1.9 billion in 2015. Italy consistently ranks among the top global consumers of Scottish produce.
These are very concerning findings. The fact that so many people across Europe say they are set to boycott the UK in the wake of Brexit could have a huge economic impact on Scotland’s tourist industry.
Because while many people in Europe know and understand that Scotland voted to stay in the EU, that is unlikely to protect us from all of the consequences and despite the best efforts of our First Minister, there is now a significant risk to our tourist industry; a sector vital to the local economy in West Dunbartonshire.
The fact that more than a quarter of European citizens also say they are ready to snub UK products is also likely to hit Scotland hard; again this is another significant risk to West Dunbartonshire’s economy with food, beer and whiskey all being produced and exported from the local area.
Scotland’s food and drink industry has been booming in recent years and is a massive success story, so the fact it is now facing a product boycott is deeply worrying.
All of this is yet further evidence that Scotland needs to protect its future by whatever means possible and it is right that the First Minister has the cross party support of the Scottish Parliament as all options continue to be explored to protect our nation’s place in Europe.
In their first forecast following the EU referendum, the British Chambers of Commerce cut its growth predictions for the UK. In its findings, they also downgraded GDP growth forecasts to 1.8% for 2016 and 1.0% for 2017.
The conclusions reported that export growth is expected to decrease from 4.8% in 2015 to 2.3% this year, as well as business investment which is predicted to fall by 2.2% in 2016 and by 3.4% in 2017.
The findings also pointed to employment growth which is predicted to slow in 2017 as the mist surrounding the UK post-Brexit increases uncertainty on recruitment.
I’ve previously warned that local businesses based in West Dunbartonshire, especially those dependent on EU exports and imports, could be set to suffer as a result of the Brexit vote, and unfortunately my predictions are now being backed up by the British Chambers of Commerce.
The UK Government need to get a grip, stop their petty internal squabbling and get on with the job of planning for leaving the EU. It gives me great comfort to know that the Scottish Government, with the backing of the Scottish Parliament as a whole, are representing our case well in European circles.
I believe the Scottish Government’s efforts will have a real positive effect and set us up well for the long term, but right now, in the short term, it is critical that the UK Government to do their jobs and try to make the best out of this disastrous situation.
On a more positive note, figures from Police Scotland show that despite reports to the contrary from other areas of the UK, Scotland’s communities have not seen a rise in racially aggravated crime following the Brexit vote.
Scotland continues to welcome our European citizens and we value the positive contribution they make to our communities and economy.