AS industries hit by soaring energy costs appeal to the UK Government for help amid fears some companies could struggle to get through the coming weeks without financial assistance, one of Scotland’s leading business figures has said subsidies should not be made available and that they should “just get on with it”.
In hard-hitting comments on The Go Radio Business Show with Haughey and Hunter yesterday, Sir Tom Hunter said: “Everybody thinks the Government can fix everything but good entrepreneurs just get on with it.”
Adding that rising energy prices were out of their control, he said entrepreneurs should instead should focus on their own businesses and find their own solutions.
“Entrepreneurs who moan about the Government this, the Government that – no,” said Sir Tom. “Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Get on with your business and find a workaround for all these things. Am I asking the Government to look at this? Yes. But there is only so much the Government can do, good and bad.”
Asked by host Donald Martin, the editor of The Herald and The Herald on Sunday, if that means some manufacturing companies could go to the wall, Sir Tom said: “What we have to look at in terms of energy … are our businesses on an even keel competition wise with Europe, with Asia where perhaps there are subsidies? Steelmaking comes to mind.”
Trade group UK Steel is among those that have called on the UK Government to help avert job losses if companies are forced to cease production because they cannot cope with the increased cost of energy.
Meanwhile, Labour peer Lord Haughey, the owner of City Facilities Management Holdings, warned that soaring energy costs for businesses was a “serious issue”.
Pointing to initial headlines when the crisis first emerged that there could potentially be a £400-per-annum uplift in energy costs for households, he said: “Entrepreneurs will do what they usually do and find short-term solutions.
“But I think we should have a deep look at utilities and energy. I know there is a big push to move away from gas in the next few years but we have to look at nuclear, we have to look at other ways where we are in charge of our own destiny.”
Highlighting that most of the UK’s LNG (liquefied natural gas) comes from Qatar, Lord Haughey said the whole supply chain – and the wider issue of labour shortages – had to be looked at with the focus on a short-term solution in the instance.
“The Government has to put a taskforce together and they need to speak to people, engage with experts in these industries to find first a short-term solution and then a long-term solution.
“The big worry is that companies having been talking about closing their doors because they cannot survive.”
Sir Tom welcomed recent news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed former Tesco chief executive Sir David Lewis to advise on how to fix the supply chain crisis that has led to petrol and other shortages.
But he suggested that the UK Government was “hiding behind Covid”, adding: “If we had not had Covid, Brexit would be laid bare. The ramifications of Brexit that we are feeling today … we are going to feel them for a long time.
“But where there is change there are opportunities and clever entrepreneurs are right on that.”
Along with guests from the Scottish business community, The Go Radio Business Show features business advice and insight from Sir Tom Hunter and Lord Willie Haughey at 10.30am on Sundays.