WHILE Scotland remains part of the UK, we’re in a crisis, people want answers and support and don’t care where this comes from. We are not, sadly, independent, so fighting a global pandemic with one arm tied behind our back.

If Unionists ask how Scotland would cope in this crisis, the answer is easy – the same way the UK is now, by borrowing. So while the Scottish Government cannot borrow internationally in the way the UK Government can, the UK Treasury is borrowing on our behalf and it is important we hold it to account to make sure the money is spent in a way that will protect and support constituents and Scottish businesses. I’ve supported some UK measures and the scale of the package deserves praise, but the gloss is wearing off and too many businesses that are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy are being ignored.

The term “dividend payments” conjures up all sorts of images – boardroom bosses congratulating themselves on a record quarter, or perhaps savvy investors getting their due from the market. What can be less obvious are the hundreds of small business owners in Stirling, and hundreds of thousands right across Scotland, who rely on dividend payments to make ends meet.

Small limited company directors across Stirling contribute massively to the local and national economy. From pram stores and decorators, to builders, engineering firms and kilt shops – many are economically vulnerable and have had their circumstances overlooked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Furlough pay covers the basic minimum wage many directors pay themselves, and ignores the often crucial dividend payments that complete their monthly wage.

While the Scottish Government has made best use of the money and powers it has, putting in place support for the newly self-employed for example, Holyrood is fighting this pandemic and the related economic fallout at a disadvantage.

The powers of the Scottish Parliament to borrow remain constrained, bound by law to produce a balanced budget. It’s true that in recent years, powers have been bolstered over areas such as capital expenditure. But constraints remain still, such as authorised borrowing in the event of a Scotland-specific economic shock. With a global pandemic, the clue is very much in the name.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the reality of devolution across the United Kingdom. Whilst still met with much hostility, the British media have acknowledged and begrudgingly accepted the right of the devolved administrations to use their powers over health to make informed policy choices suitable for their country.

The virus has varied progression across the regions and nations of the United Kingdom. Devolution allows for a response appropriate to local health circumstances. Therefore, the resources to support and underpin the health policy decisions of the devolved administrations must also be available – or at least, the borrowing powers necessary.

All this serves to underline the inadequacy of the current governance arrangements within the UK. In rhetoric, the United Kingdom remains a “Union of Equals”, except when devolved decisions contrast with those of the UK Government. The devolved administrations should not, and cannot, be deprived of the economic levers they need to build back better, and prevent a generational health crisis devolving into an economic one.

Within the constraints of the Union, and with many key tools that sovereign states take for granted out of reach, the Scottish Government has sought to navigate the unique challenges presented by Covid-19. Tourism, a cornerstone of the economy, especially in my constituency of Stirling, has benefited from targeted intervention, such as the £20 million Creative, Tourism And Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund.

Some industries may take longer than others to adapt to a post-coronavirus economy. If Scotland’s economy is to rebound and shake off the repercussions of the pandemic, its government must have the fiscal tools for the job. The UK Government can be judged by its actions – and it has ignored the small limited companies we so badly need to support. The ForgottenLtd campaign has done a great job in raising awareness of their issues. I’m a supporter and so should you be. Even as part of the UK, I’m working to try and bring them into the support system, and if the UK Chancellor makes a U-turn to agree with us I’ll be the first to praise him.

But then on the wider, longer-term future, ideas like a Universal Basic Income, a four-day working week, a Green New Deal will all remain ideas, not reality, unless we have the tools in Scotland to implement them.

Small limited companies make up the economic backbone of Scotland. If we are to economically recover in a fair and equal way, government support must be extended to them too. In creating a greener and more locally based economy, these organisations will be a cornerstone in forging that new normal.