BILL JAMIESON                  DECEMBER 6 2016

So: a constitutional crisis over Brexit could be an “extremely good thing for Scotland”, according to Alex Salmond.

The former first minister said if the Supreme Court judges rejected the government’s appeal this week it would result in a constitutional crisis – “ an extremely good thing for Scotland because it would put us in an extremely powerful position in terms of securing the interests of Scotland in the negotiations”.

Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a European Greens conference in Glasgow that supporters of progressive values needed to “stand up and be counted” to fight against xenophobia.

For good measure the Scottish Greens co-convenor Maggie Chapman said her party would back Ms Sturgeon if she presses for an independence referendum.

Have the SNP and its allies totally lost the plot?

Have they forgotten that they have a country to look after? And that their relentless pursuit of a second referendum – even at the cost of a constitutional crisis – flies in the face of polls showing no public appetite for one and that it is damaging Scottish interests?

Little wonder business confidence is at a low ebb in Scotland with continuing constitutional turmoil. And that, on the latest forecasts released yesterday from the EY ( Ernst & Young) Scottish Item Club, output growth here will shrink to just 0.4 per cent next year – 1.6 percentage points lower than it expected in June?

Its prediction for this year has also been lowered from 1.2 per cent to 0.7 per cent, having forecast growth of 1.9 per cent in its report a year ago.

EY said growth would be “much slower” as existing headwinds were “compounded by political and economic uncertainty”. The report said the “bright spots” of economic growth from mid-2015 – consumer spending and investment – had “faded”.

If this was all due to Brexit then the UK as a whole would be suffering just as much. But the latest Scottish figures are well below its estimates for the UK as a whole, which it expects to grow by 1.9 per cent this year and 0.8 per cent in 2017.

For the record, the UK economy grew by 2.3 per cent in the year to end September.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that UK GDP growth will slow to 1.4 per cent in 2017 – compared to the EY prediction of just 0.4 per cent growth for Scotland – and then recover to 1.7 per cent in 2018 and 2.1 per cent in both 2019 and 2020.

So why should Scotland be faring worse – other than the acute uncertainty and dislocation being pursued by the SNP?

And as if that was not enough, now comes the former first minister with his admonitions that a constitutional crisis would be “an extremely good thing”.

Who is he trying to fool?

There’s little sign of Brexit meltdown across the UK as a whole – or that, as the EY Scottish Item Club puts it – consumer spending and investment elsewhere in the UK has “faded”.

Indeed Purchasing Managers Index figures out yesterday showed UK services activity at a 10-month high in November. The activity index climbed to 55.2 from 54.5 in October.

Other elements of the November services were decent overall with new orders growth at the second highest level this year and outstanding business rising at the fastest rate since July 2015. Employment growth in the sector was at a seven-month high.

But the services PMI is not the only upbeat indicator for the UK to have emerged in the past week. The PMI report on construction activity showed expansion for the third month running in November and is at an eight month high.

New orders are also at an eight-month high, employment up and business expectations improving.

Specifically, the PMI improved to 52.8 in November from 52.6 in October and just 45.9 in July – the lowest level since June 2009.

None of this is to say that Brexit is not a problem or that the UK economy will not face setbacks in the period ahead. Major uncertainties abound – many of them relating to political upheaval in continental Europe and US trade and foreign policy when Donald Trump takes over as President in January.

In this context the idea that a constitutional crisis would be “an extremely good thing” borders on the deranged.

Why does the SNP continue to have a problem with referendum results?

It said it would respect the outcome of the independence referendum which rejected separation – but it constantly agitates for a second referendum.

It didn’t like the outcome of the UK-wide referendum to leave the EU – and constantly agitates for Scotland to be excluded – even though it accepted it was a UK-wide vote – and that a million Scots voted for ‘Leave’.

All we seem to get from the SNP leadership is grandstanding at foreign conferences, virtue signalling about xenophobia (not to be confused with Scottish nationalism), constant whining about anything and everything that Westminster does, and relentless complaints that Westminster economic policy is “doing Scotland down” – even though the UK has been the fastest growing economy in the G-7.

What we need from the SNP administration is a keen focus on

WHY Scotland is lagging so markedly behind the UK overall,

WHY the SNP administration has so far failed to provide an uplift,

WHY it believes a constitutional crisis would be good for us,

WHY it is failing to concentrate on the job in hand, and

WHAT it intends to do about it.

Without a radical change in policy direction and help for the enterprise sector, Heaven help us all. 

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