I COULDN’T have put it better than Lord Mandelson when he described the UK economy as being “stuck in a fearful hole”.

The former Labour secretary of state for business, innovation and skills was appearing at a Business and Trade Committee session at Westminster to scrutinise the UK Government’s industrial strategy – or lack of one, you could say.

Lord Mandelson was joined by former secretary of state for business in the Tory/LibDem coalition Vince Cable, and Greg Clark MP as former secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy between 2016 and 2019 when the UK Government still had an industrial approach before ditching it under the chaos of Boris Johnson.

Quite an illustrious cast, with Lord Harrington also present, author of the independent review commissioned by the Government into the UK approach to foreign direct investment.

READ MOREChris Packham cleared to take on Government in court over net zero

It was one of those committee sessions where the absolute horror of Tory mismanagement of our economy and international reputation was once again laid out in all its disastrous consequences for real people living real lives across the UK. And another example of how we have had one of the worst possible governments during one of the most challenging periods in our history as we grapple with Brexit, the global pandemic, war in Europe and now the Middle East, climate change and, of course, the trailing arm of the devastation of the financial crash.

It’s hard to find positives in this quagmire, while at the same time a relief to listen to a group of former cross-party ministers who have the knowledge and expertise required to analyse what has gone wrong, even if our political viewpoints differ.

Recurring themes of a lack of consistency on policy, stability or long-term commitments, confusing financial advice and government silos creating an environment where it is impossible for a joined-up and strategic approach, impossible for private investment to navigate and thus equally impossible for business confidence to grow.

This haphazard approach makes it even harder for the UK to rise successfully to the challenge of major transitions in green and digital technologies and societal issues such as regional inequality. Meanwhile, the UK bumps down to near the very bottom of the G7 nations, and low capital investment leads to low productivity growth. Sounds like a lot more than a mere “technical” recession to me.

READ MORE: Spring Budget: Scotland facing 'decade of damaging austerity cuts'

It’s always interesting to be facing a group of weighty witnesses that all still adhere to a “Better Together” approach for Scotland in the UK even when they are describing the wholesale destruction or, worse, lack of interest, in economic prosperity and success since the 2014 referendum. It’s hard to find any aspect of things being better for Scotland to be tethered to an ad hoc, unstable, ever-changing cycle of policy flipflops that even the Institute for Government describes as missing in action when it comes to certainty and longevity, the policy attributes that businesses value most.

Greg Clark noted that his party in government seem to take a “surreptitious” approach to industrial policy, where having “an undercover strategy” (i.e. an industrial policy that is not an industrial policy) is rather “self-defeating”

Not content with the instability of a revolving door of prime ministers, the Tory government has also been busy getting dizzy with the government department responsible for managing industrial policy being reorganised five times over 15 years with 15 different secretaries of state responsible for business and industrial strategy in the same time period, as Make UK points out in its recent report on “Industrial Strategy: A Manufacturing Ambition”.

Hardly “strong and stable”. Not exactly the best way to “build back better”.

And certainly not the ideal vehicle to realise any of the much-discussed levelling up goals to deal with glaring inequalities between the South East of England and the rest of the UK, not least Scotland.

Meanwhile, our global neighbours’ industrial success has been motivated by a desire to realise their economic strategic competitiveness and tackle the epic challenge of climate change, with US president Joe Biden introducing major industrial policy legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, and the EU announcing its Green Industrial Plan and Net Zero Industry Act.

The UK remains the outlier with the Tory government pretending we don’t need to get in on the act despite organisations like the World Economic Forum revealing that three quarters of the chief economists they surveyed expect industrial policy to become a “widespread global approach to economic policy over the next three years”.

So, while we’re stuck in this “fearful hole”, other countries are steaming ahead with joined-up, pragmatic and far-reaching industrial strategies, where government intervention is not regarded as a business faux pas, but an essential component of a partnership and co-operation model with industry experts for the good of their respective economies.

The National:

Just last month, I raised an Early Day Motion in support of the FM’s call for an Industrial Strategy once we are independent. I went one step further and called for Scotland to go ahead in the here and now and establish a Minister for Industrial Strategy, to use every devolved lever possible to create a more resilient and proactive environment for economic success and prosperity.

Being independent, of course, would give us far more scope for this success, but we’ve no time to lose to make the most of innovative opportunities, the green transition, our abundant natural resources and the chance to create a truly skilled and diverse workforce.

I think Scotland has all the right attributes, expertise and talent to get us out of this “fearful hole” and I don’t think we need to wait until there’s been a change in government at Westminster to make it happen, especially given Labour’s prevarications on their commitment to the green transformation, and their Brexit blindspot.

The Better Together bubble was burst 10 years ago when promises made were never realised. But the important thing to remember is that Scotland is not on her own, there is a whole international community out there getting fit for the future and building their industrial capability – why can’t we?