*This was first published in the Daily Record newspaper on the 7th of August 2018*

A trade war between the US and China is happening above our heads in more ways than one. Watching the news, we see heads of states threaten each other with numbers with too many zeros to count.

These threats of hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs in reality mean anything up to 25 per cent lumped on to imported goods. It’s a global power play that can only end with the little guy losing out.

Those in the business of ­manufacturing goods are only interested in one thing – profit.

They will locate their businesses where they can find the sweet spot between price and skill. The highest quality product at the cheapest price. Yet that sweet spot can swing like a pendulum when the price of doing business is factored in.

A new tariff or increased labour costs upset the balance and the pendulum moves that factory to another land and location. The more susceptible we are to global fluctuations like this, the harder it will be for us to retain decent jobs in the UK. Brexit is bad news on this front.

It looks increasingly like Brexit means new tariffs with Europe and that means the UK is no longer the best place to make goods that involve assembling parts with complicated supply chains.

That’s why big aeroplane and car producers are already planning their road out. Brexit makes our economic future more precarious but it would be wrong to suggest that’s the only threat we face.

If there’s a country in the world with better skills, more inviting start-up ­packages, lower taxes and fewer ­employment rights and less bureaucracy, companies will move. That’s the blunt truth of it.

The question for Scotland is – do we even want to attempt to compete in this race if those are the rules?

It’s a game we can never win if we care about an economy rooted in meaningful well paid jobs.

When the US and China are in the midst of a trade war, jobs disappear. Just as they do when every Tory MP says a few years of economic downturn is a price worth paying for the “freedom” of Brexit.

That’s fine if you’re sat at a ­chessboard moving billions around a global economy but it’s a desperate, powerless situation on the shop floor.

No – that’s why we have to ­fundamentally change the economic model so that we can compete in a game we have a chance of excelling at. One that prides itself on a highly skilled, well educated workforce that produces goods no one can do better.

We have the raw ingredients for this in Scotland but there’s so much more we can do to deliver that real change, like investing in the skills of our people, the greatest natural resource we have.

That means reversing the trend of slashing school and college budgets. Supporting businesses to invest in the skills of their people as much as they do the factories they work in.

The very last thing we should do as this trade war above our heads gathers pace is attempt to join in.

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