By Oliver Farrimond
SCOTS tycoon Sir Tom Farmer has launched a blistering attack on both the UK and Scottish governments accusing them of “limping from one crisis to the next”.
Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, the hugely respected businessman blamed a “lack of leadership” for political dithering he blames for strangling the economy.
He also called for business leaders to stand in local elections, in order to circumvent bureaucracy and red tape, and to send a message to those in power.
Sir Tom, who will celebrate his 70th birthday next year, said: “Government is floundering, and limping from one crisis to another.
“We were promised less bureaucracy, but we have more.
“We were promised less red tape which strangles our businesses, but we have more.
“And although there are many politicians, both local and national, who work hard and do a very good job for us, there are too many who are milking the system.”
“It’s a form of milking which, if it was applied in business, would see them fired immediately.
“Those who are working hard in our governments are overshadowed by those who are abusing their position, and not just by their own incompetence, but by failing to give proper leadership.”
“Our problems will not be solved by more ASBOs, more cameras and more drinking laws.
“The answer lies in education, and in teaching children basic reading and writing skills, and how to behave.”
He added: “Local authorities and the business world should be willing to work more closely together than ever before.
“Perhaps it is time that the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce supported their own council candidates, or at least give their backing to independent candidates who are not tied to any political party.”
His calls were echoed by the Chamber’s chief executive Ron Hewitt, who said that reform in the public sector’s finances was badly needed.
Cuts of up to £4 billion could be headed to Scotland’s public services in the next year, and the Chamber of Commerce wants this to be accompanied by radical reforms to the public purse.
He said: “We are looking at roughly a tenth of the Holyrood budget being slashed, and with further constitutional changes to come we could be looking at cuts of £7.5bn in today’s money.
“Most of these will take place in areas where the Scottish government has a remit – health, education, housing, transport, enterprise and culture.
“There has been no premium of performance in the Scottish public sector.”
“Only through meaningful reform can we avoid the crushing fiscal burden that otherwise must fall on all taxpayers and the public sector alike.”
“If Scottish public sector productivity could at least match the UK average the Scottish government could spend £5bn pounds less – and achieve the same results.”
Sir Tom, who was brought up in Leith and majority shareholder in Hibernian FC, made his millions in the tyre and exhaust trade, mainly through the Kwik-Fit chain.
He has previously donated thousands of pounds to the SNP, but stopped short of claiming allegiance to the nationalist cause.