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From La La Land to Limbo Land

21/03/17

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We’ve seen plenty of examples lately of people plainly getting it wrong. We know in politics that it’s often (nearly always?) the case.

It’s ironic that “La La Land” after having its hands on the best picture Oscar, due to what some of the press described as a monumental cock up (with an envelope), had it taken away. With what’s happening in the world today it was hardly monumental.

If the UK had entered the Oscars then surely as a real life “La La Land” it wouldn’t have to hand anything back?

The Tories are putting the boot into the self-employed and “one man limited companies”, who are bedrock of any modern economy and who by and large vote Conservative? The self-employed are having their National Insurance contributions hiked, and this after the Tories categorically stating that they would not raise NI during this parliament in their manifesto – BS.

In April it will be a bureaucratic nightmare for people who operate through personal service companies (PSCs) to work directly or indirectly in the public sector. There is a new, specially-designed system (all done without Brussels), which decides on which side of a line a PSC falls with respect to IR35 (IR35 decides if a person is actually working for themselves or is really a disguised employee). Experts already believe the system in a lot of cases will get it wrong! It leaves contractors and agencies scratching their heads.

So what does this uncertainty create? La La Land to Limbo Land springs to mind.

An eminent professional services director predicted that contractors would move out of the public sector, citing the Ministry of Defence and the NHS as likely examples. (So the health service gets in the neck too!). IT departments across the public sector who are heavily reliant on self-employed contractors would be particularly badly hit.

The Tories believe that stopping PSCs operating in the public sector will produce £450million in tax whilst others, notably the business community, believe it will cost the economy over £1billion and create levels of bureaucracy Brussels would be proud of. Now where’s the sense in that?

So the Tories, the bastions of laissez faire, are having a right go at people who class themselves as self-employed or who operate PSCs.

Tories are supposed to encourage entrepreneurs not strangle them. Let’s remember that most of the UK’s companies started off as one-man bands, including Orion!

However the UK chancellor Philip Hammond did announce an increase to Scotland’s budget to the tune of £350million. I look forward to seeing how it will be spent. I also welcome the UK’s attention on tax incentives for our North Sea industries.

Across the country we have completed – or are in the process of completing – some outstanding projects including the Queensferry Crossing, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness. In the north and north east, we can celebrate many new public buildings that have been signed off, including Inverness’s Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service building and Aberdeen’s new exhibition and conference centre. These will all be completed in the next two years and afterwards I’d love to see a lot more happening than is currently projected.

The Scottish technology scene is another success but there’s more to do. I saw last month that our world-class video gaming sector received its first inward investment from China and, from our own Chinese ties, I know that will be great news for them. What we must continue to invest in more widely is our national superfast broadband infrastructure. I know some communities are still largely cut off from acceptable connectivity, affecting their potential prosperity. If it is not available in the smaller communities of the Highlands and Islands we’ll lose crucial enterprises and people skills will move away.

The Scottish Government and its partners have begun rolling out a programme of investment to see 100% superfast broadband by 2021. It will hopefully mean we are all able to run our businesses or manage projects wherever we are with 30 megabit per second connections. I ‘m sure we’re all looking forward to that day.

At Orion Group, I continue to see people working well with each other and for each other. They are committed to finding high quality people to fill the many roles across the sectors we work. As a business, we are determined not to stand still. Just as Scotland is finding better ways of using technology to expand and make business more efficient, so are we. That is why we have launched our new website this month. It is a tool to create greater visibility of the wide range of work we do and provide the ease of access that clients and candidates expect.

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