POLITICS: SNP chiefs have ‘bullied’ public bodies, ex-quango boss claims

Former Scottish Enterprise chief executive Jack Perry CBE said bosses of arms-length organisations could not speak out against ministers.

He also accused the Nats administration of trying to “neuter” firms who didn’t align strategies with their independence dream.

And Mr Perry claimed financial growth goals had been “sidelined” by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, pictured right.

Accusing economic agencies of a lack of action during the Covid crisis, he said: “They seem to have lost their independence altogether. Frankly, they have just been bullied into submission.

“You’ll not find chief execs speaking out — they cannot speak publicly in opposition to the government. But the boards can and should when they see blatant politics entering into their budgets and into their mission.

“They should also be out there making strong representation for the additional funding, programmes and projects that will actually get the economy moving. And they are not doing anything.

“The only growth industry has been creating commissions and task forces and groups. Where are the original ideas from the economy and enterprise ministers?

Jack Perry CBE said that organisations had been politicised

Former Scottish Enterprise boss Jack Perry CBE 

“They have been utterly silent in the midst of one of the greatest economic crises we’ve ever faced.”

Mr Perry, who led the enterprise agency for six years until 2009, said businesses feared putting their “heads above the parapet” with any non-indy stance or risk being picked off by the SNP’s media and PR operation.

He added: “They get shot down instantly and boycotted. It’s very slick. Tunnock’s got berated for promoting a British identity in export markets rather than Scottish. They subtly changed branding and suddenly there are boycott calls.

“You saw it with Barrhead Travel, who had the temerity to suggest maybe the Union was a good thing and again you had people calling for boycotts. They always play the man, not the ball. They always go for the individuals.”

Mr Perry claimed quangos had allowed themselves to be conditioned to promote “insidious” branding suggesting Scotland was independent.

And he insisted the country’s civil service had become “highly politicised”.

The former Ernst & Young partner added: “Since devolution, Scottish ministers effectively have right of veto over senior appointments. They only pick people they know will toe the line so you lose independence of mind and spirit at the top.”

Scottish Enterprise, which is working hand in glove with Flamingo Land who have their eyes firmly set on plans for a major development a major site at Drumkinnon Bay on Loch Lomondside, said its budget had risen by £42million this year and it had responded to 32,000 enquiries during the pandemic.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Mr Perry’s claims were “not true”.

She added: “The chief executive of Scottish Enterprise is recruited in a fair and open way. Independent boards which govern public bodies are quite rightly entitled to speak their mind and challenge ministers on any issues they choose.”

However, readers’ comments in the Scottish Sun included these: “I worked there for over 8 years, while Jack was CEO and after. His comments are on the money and the reason I left.

“The focus shifted from what they could do for the companies, to what the companies could do for them. It became all about persuading the companies they needed government funds to enter markets or innovate therefore becoming a ‘win’, creating situations of ‘safeguarding’ which made them look good despite the fact the situations didn’t really exist in the first place, and about claiming investment where figures were often double counted or were a tally of potential jobs over 10 years (major Asian market investment into Scotland).

“It’s now all fabrication and lies to make SG look good. The overall impact of this is that companies went from moving at pace without asking for financial support, to slowing down while they submitted an application that could take many months to process. The place is a mere shadow of itself, directed by those who want to support ministers and who will certainly not rock the boat. It needs completed overhauled and new management.”

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