This is an opinion piece written by former Exchange director Peter Grant, of Grant Property, for The Scotsman. Published 31May’12
Scotland punches above its weight in entrepreneurs. From Jim McColl and Sir Bill Gammell to Ann Gloag and Audrey Baxter, they all have one thing in common – an indomitable can-do attitude.
Unfortunately, all too often I see opportunities where Scottish entrepreneurial spirit is stifled by red tape – not to mention the ongoing unwillingness of the banks to lend to SMEs with great ideas.
Today I’ve got the unique opportunity of addressing the chief executives of Scotland’s 32 local authorities at the Solace Scotland conference to share my ideas on how the public sector can play its part in nurturing business, helping create jobs and stimulating regeneration.
As the founder and CEO of one of the country’s biggest managers of rented accommodation, I’ve had more than a few interesting exchanges with local government on red tape.
Some of the rules facing rented accommodation are incomprehensible. Bathrooms are apparently a fire hazard; three bedroom flats need bigger bedrooms than two beds; newly renovated properties often can’t be rented for up to 12 months; and the craziest of all, four bedroom properties can only be rented to two people. In truth it’s simpler for us to do business in England where regulation seems more business friendly.
But we are a proud Scottish company based in Scotland, employing more than 150 people in 12 cities across the UK. We are responsible for buying, renovating and renting 2000 properties to key workers, unemployed and professional people. That represents around £400 million of private investment since my wife Colette and I set up the business in 1997.
We want to keep that investment coming into Scotland, to keep creating jobs and stimulate the economy. But that can only happen if the public sector starts to listen to Scotland’s “can-do” entrepreneurs, big and small. That means one thing: simplify regulations for all to nurture business and jobs.
In fact I’ll lay down a challenge to council chief executives to spend a day shadowing business, and see for themselves the daily regulations that curb that entrepreneurial spirit.
• Peter Grant is CEO of Grant Property and a member of the Entrepreneurial Exchange.