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Sir Tom Hunter, who gained the reputation of being Scotland’s richest man, took a rare swipe at Nicola Sturgeon as he warned £6bn will be needed to recover the Scottish economy. He said Ms Sturgeon’s administration should acknowledge it’s “lack of business experience”.
The philanthropist, wrote in The Herald today: “If there was ever a time for the Scottish Government to acknowledge their lack of business experience in the civil service, their agencies and in Cabinet it is now.
“Not as an admission of guilt but a recognition of what you do best and we do best.
“And, to be clear, so the same is true of us in business.
“Many of us, me included, don’t understand how the government works and that’s a recognition of what you do best.
“We need to come together respecting each other’s skill sets, harness them and accelerate them.”
Sir Tom also referred to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, which released its economic report on how Scotland should recover from COVID-19 earlier this month.
The report, put together by a team led by economic adviser Benny Higgins, said Scotland would need £6bn in stimulus funding to recover from the economy whilst GDP would fall by more than a third.
It also called for a full review of the three months of education which Children have lost during lockdown as well additional protections for cash-strapped colleges and universities.
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Ms Sturgeon said during a daily briefing at St Andrews House they would respond to the report by the end of July.
But Sir Tom claims the report fails to set out a plan on how the Scottish economy would recover.
He stressed it “misses the vital role of small to medium-sized businesses in job creation – more or less all of it will come from them in the next five years”.
Addressing Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, he said: “So First Minister and Fiona let the customer, let business come together and write your answer guided by a lead civil servant who understands business and your budgets; but with no sacred cows.
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“Do not have the civil service or your agencies write an implementation plan for a customer they don’t really understand; let us in business take this on, trust business to do it and work with you on this.
“I know we can engage the best brains from around the world on this and the best in Scotland.”
But the Scottish Government quickly hit back at Sir Tom’s comments, claiming they were supporting thousands of businesses.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As we restart the economy and work through recovery needs as the report from the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, led by Benny Higgins, sets out, we will need all of Scotland to step up to the mark and that will require a new partnership between business and government, as well as civic Scotland.
“We will set out our response by the end of the July but action has to start before then and will most definitely need partnership between business and Government.
“The Scottish Government recognises the extensive business contributions to the advisory group’s report, contributions from the Hunter Foundation and the need for all of Scotland to pull together to steer us to recovery.
“The Scottish Government will respond by the end of July but will be taking action to start delivering on recommendations now in advance of that – action which will certainly involve Scotland’s business talent.”
The government also announced a £230 million Return to Work package to help support Scots to get back in work and £2.3bn of response support.
The father-of-three made his fortune selling trainers from the back of a van, turning his fledgling business into Sports Division.
They were bought for £290million by JJB Sports, who were then owned by Wigan Athletic boss Dave Whelan, in 1998, reportedly earning Hunter about £250million.
He then set up the Hunter Foundation which has donated millions to supporting educational and entrepreneurial projects in Scotland.
Scotland has 11 billionaires who are worth £17.245bn between them and accounting for just under half of the wealth in the Scottish Rich List.
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