Sir Tom Hunter, whose leadership centre at Ross Priory is unwelcome in community.

By Bill Heaney

In a report by Oxford Economics commissioned by Sir Tom Hunter’s Hunter Foundation, it is claimed Scotland’s GDP per head was only 48 percent of Ireland’s and 68 percent of Norway’s.

The tycoon’s foundation also warns in the report that Scotland’s economic policies were “not realistic” to transform the country’s economy.

Speaking on the report, Sir Tom, who recently won planning permission for a controversial leadership cum wedding reception centre at Ross Priory on Loch Lomondside,  said: “The report tells us Scotland would need to make changes equivalent in their impact creating a business comparable in size with Google’s total global output to bring its GDP per head up to the level of Norway.

“I’m calling on governments, politicians of all parties, industry and interested parties to work together to pave the way for transformational measures that will give the Scottish economy the significant boost it needs.

“Let’s use COVID-19 to reinvent what the future looks like.”

The billionaire also expressed his opposition to a second Scottish independence in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on the BBC Today programme, Sir Tom said: “The general consensus in business up here is that the current Government don’t really listen to business, they make policy in isolation which makes bad policy and that’s not good enough for Scotland in my opinion.

“The independence debate from this point of view is irrelevant – I think there will be another independence referendum but it certainly shouldn’t be happening now.”

He noted: “We have got a global pandemic on our hands, our politicians are not good at multitasking, we need to sort out where we are.

“The independence question is for another day.”

Sir Tom made his fortune selling trainers from the back of a van, turning his fledgeling business into Sports Division.

They were bought for £290 million by JJB Sports, who were then owned by Wigan Athletic boss Dave Whelan, in 1998, reportedly earning Hunter about £250 million.

He then set up the Hunter Foundation which has donated millions to supporting educational and entrepreneurial projects in Scotland.

Mr Hunter has expressed views on Scottish independence warning Brexit was a barrier for it.

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader, said: “All of our focus must be on our recovery, rather than the nationalists drive for another independence referendum.

“Tom Hunter has backed this message and someone of his standing should be seriously listened to.

“Throughout the pandemic businesses have been an afterthought for the SNP who failed to involve them in vital decisions.”

Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat Scottish Affairs spokesperson, said: “Sir Tom Hunter is one of Scotland’s most esteemed and successful businessmen and he is right to say that putting recovery first should be the priority in order to bounce back from the pandemic, instead of focusing on another independence referendum.

“Likewise he is right to highlight that on the SNP’s watch Scotland’s economic performance has been scraping along the bottom without any clear industrial strategy.

“Scotland needs to focus on boosting investment in green technology, delivering high wage, highly skilled jobs and reforming the tax system to restore our high streets.”

Scotland has 11 billionaires who are worth £17.245 BILLION between them and accounting for just under half of the wealth in the Scottish Rich List.

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