Thomson: smooth-talking pro-business voice of nationalism
During the Scottish independence referendum there was an organisation called Business for Scotland, whose schtick was that independence would be good for Scotland’s businesses. Their words were treated as if from the CBI or some other big business guns though in fact they were a slug pistol of one-man bands and consultants who did not trade with England. For an estimate of their general puniness check out Chokkablog:-
Given that the potential impact on this £47.6bn of trade is one of the big issues for business in the Independence debate I think we can agree that any “Scottish Business” voice would need to include representation from businesses involved in this trade to have any credibility.
This is why I’m amazed that “Business for Scotland” gets any airtime at all. As I show in painful detail in this post, the identified Members of Business for Scotland can be fairly summarised as;
•30 “business professionals”
•28 people who have Small Company directorships; businesses with no declared turnover or employee figures. These are predominantly consultancies, property companies and service companies; I can’t identify any material trading links with rUK and none can be considered major employers.
Business for Scotland was an SNP front group and now the managing director, Michelle Thomson, is my MP for Edinburgh West after the great Sneep Sweep last election. This piece from Private Eye shows the general contradictions of a party that tries to be all things to all people, except for the common thread of nationalism:-
NEVER let it be said the SNP gang at Westminster lacks ideological diversity. When Mhairi Black, the 20-year-old left-wing firebrand whose maiden speech recently went viral on the internet, attacks the wicked Tories and their tax-cutting ways, many of the SNP MPs nod and cheer her on.
Yet the awkward truth is that it is SNP policy to slash corporation tax and the SNP leadership has made strenuous efforts to crawl to big business, offering desperate reassurance that an independent Scotland would not be the left-wing, high-tax utopia that Black and many of the party’s hard left activists envisage.
At the forefront of that Nationalist push during the Scottish referendum to convince business that it had nothing to fear from independence was Michelle Thomson, then the managing director of an SNP-front called Business for Scotland. She won the Edinburgh West seat for the party in May, defeating Lib Dem Mike Crockart and securing a 3,210 majority.
Thomson was somewhat less successful in the referendum campaign last year, where she was deployed on radio and television as the theoretically smooth-talking pro-business voice of moderate nationalism trying to sell separation to business leaders and their employees. Many of them remained sceptical.
As one of the seven signatories of a letter to the Financial Times weeks before the referendum, Thomson proclaimed that Scotland’s financial sector would always prosper, contrary to the warnings from Unionists about the potential economic risks of independence.
One of Thomson’s fellow signatories to that letter was a banker who knows a great deal about the prosperity or otherwise of the Scottish financial sector. Sir George Mathewson, friend and adviser to Alex Salmond, was the buccaneering chief executive and chairman of RBS who expanded the bank aggressively, hired Fred Goodwin and then from the sidelines cheered on his old bank as it bought the Dutch bank ABN Amro in 2007, on the eve of the financial crisis, in one of the worst deals of the century.
Despite Thomson making a lot of noise and being invited on air by broadcasters in Scotland and London who did too little to probe the credentials of Business for Scotland, it was never clear that the organisation she ran had many serious businesses on board. The tenacious economics blogger Kevin Hague incurred the wrath of Thomson and the Nationalists by conducting an in-depth investigation last year into the group’s membership. Despite the claims that it represented Scottish business, only a few of those involved had major company directorships, Hague discovered, and many more ran tiny firms or no firms at all.
Thomson continued to be presented as a voice of business, and when she won her seat she was hailed by the National, the SNP fanzine that is a weekend offshoot of the once respected Glasgow Herald, as a “breath of fresh air” because she has enjoyed “a broad-based life experience”.
After graduating from the Royal Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow in 1985, she worked as a musician before joining Standard Life working in IT, moving to RBS and then setting up on her own in 2009. But her subsequent business career cannot be counted as stellar. At the time she ran Business for Scotland, she had one active directorship, in a small Fife-based outfit called Your Property Shop Ltd, providing property investment services. Her other property business, Edinburgh Global Property Investments, was dissolved.
At Westminster, in the SNP team, Thomson now has the lofty business, innovation and skills portfolio from which to pontificate about the great economic issues of the day. She may also have to explain to Mhairi Black and other left-wingers on the Nationalist benches that when they joined the SNP, if they thought they were signing up to a party in favour of punitively taxing the boss class, they were sorely mistaken.
The semi-official economic adviser to the Yessers is Stu Campbell of Wings for Scotland. He and Kevin Hague of Chokkablog are at loggerheads on twitter. Wings is notorious for his abusiveness and instead of countering Hague’s graphs and stats goes very very personal:-
This refers to some personal stuff Kevin Hague put on his blog about the various “dads” that floated through his difficult childhood. I can’t parse Wings’ numbers but he really is a prize shit.