Monday 21 July 2003

Who needs job experience?

I think that George Robertson, outgoing secretary-general of NATO, is a decent man, despite being a former Labour MP and minister. If Robertson had still been Defence Secretary I don’t imagine that he would have turned up yesterday at the British Grand Prix as did Geoff (Buff) Hoon who claimed that he was there “investigating plans to adapt motor racing’s quick-fuelling systems for use with military helicopters.” (Daily Mail). Robertson would have known to keep his head down in the aftermath of the death of Dr David Kelly.

Nevertheless, I can’t agree with the letter in today’s Glasgow Herald from a Mr Neil Robertson (presumably no relation) who writes:

Your business correspondent Mark Smith is quite wrong to suggest that the outgoing secretary-general of Nato, Lord George Robertson - who has just been appointed to the board of Weir Group plc, "Scotland's largest engineering company" - "has no real experience of business" (July 19). As a member of the first board of the Scottish Development Agency from 1975 to 1978 - when he was still Scottish organiser of the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Union - George Robertson won his spurs in industrial development by serving alongside Sir William Gray, Professor Kenneth Alexander, Councillor Charles Gray, Dr George Weir, Brigadier Muir, David Ogilvie, Alan Devereux, Jimmy Jack of STUC, SDA chief executive Lewis Robertson, and SDA board secretary Muir Russell (seconded from the Scottish Office), in laying down ground-rules for "the Scottish development acorn", SDA.
I'm sorry, but being a trade union representative on a government quango is not the same as having "business experience". Real businessmen lie awake at night wondering how they can meet the next payroll while hoping that the next bunch of government regulations doesn't bankrupt them. It's a pity that so few people in Scotland understand that reality.