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by Louise Wilson
17 October 2023
SNP must be ‘more effective’ at delivering policy to convince voters of independence says former minister

SNP must be ‘more effective’ at delivering policy to convince voters of independence says former minister

A former Scottish Government minister has said the SNP needs to get better at delivering policy “more effectively and efficiently” to convince people on the question of independence.

Ivan McKee, speaking at a Holyrood fringe event at the SNP conference on the deposit return scheme (DRS), also said conversations about how to deliver policies with businesses were “missing”.

He said DRS became a “totemic example” of how the Scottish Government’s relationship with business was not working.

Scotland’s DRS was delayed by ministers earlier this year until at least 2025 – now to be launched at the same time as the rest of the UK – following concerns about costs and deliverability.

Jim Fox, of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, told the fringe meeting that the delivery of the DRS in 2025 was on “a shaky peg”.

Asked about how Scottish ministers could be trusted to deliver independence when they had failed on DRS, McKee said it was a “fair comment”.

He added: “The reality is we need as a party to be in a better place to be able to execute more effectively and efficiently on that kind of stuff, because you're right, if you can't do that, how are you going to deal with bigger issues?”

But he also said the UK Government had used the scheme as an “opportunity to cause trouble” and if Scotland was independent it would have taken “a whole layer of complexity out of the picture”.

McKee, who was business minister under Nicola Sturgeon, said the DRS was “symptomatic” of the way government delivered policies which did not originate from the business portfolio but nonetheless had a large impact on business.

He said: “The bit of the process where business is brought in to have that conversation about the practicalities is the bit that's been frankly missing.

“Now there’s steps underway with the new deal for business, the regulation taskforce that was in place immediately prior to that, to try and work through a better mechanism for that. Frankly, the jury is still out on that.

“Businesses say ‘we're happy to work with that, see what it gets to’, but the proof of the pudding on that will be when other regulations or examples of existing regulations come back for review in a way that engages the business community. So let's see where that goes. But I think there are some structural issues there about where are these things originate from in government.”

He pointed to short-term let regulations, alcohol advertising proposals and the tourism tax as other examples of such an approach being taken.

He added businesses had been better engaged on the tourism tax and it would be “interesting” to see if the government had learned its lessons from DRS.

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