Business leaders have used the Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s (SCDI) annual Forum to call on the Scottish Government to support sectors through the pandemic and build the framework for a more sustainable economy.
Speaking in a panel discussion at the event today, Diageo’s president for global supply chain and procurement Ewan Andrew appealed to the government to “put in place a set of hospitality sector packages”, warning that a failure to do so might risk what he saw as “a bellwether for other parts of the economy and society”.
He also added that in his role as the beer and spirits producer’s chief sustainability officer, he was acutely aware of the balance to be struck between returning to growth, but not at any cost – pointing to the beneficial drop in emissions during the pandemic, alongside the damaging lack of tourism in Scotland.
Also taking on this theme during the panel session was Steve Phimister, vice president for upstream at Shell UK, who said the country was “at a critical juncture” due to Covid-19 in terms of what to prioritise going forward.
He said the oil and gas giant supports the Paris Climate Agreement and earlier this year committed to net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, but reiterated that in order to reach that ambition the company would need “strong government support”.
Phimister noted that he was in talks trying to formulate the North Sea Transition with MSPs, something which can potentially “unlock investment and be a catalyst to stimulate jobs”. But while he was optimistic about the future, from a government perspective, “the most important thing in the green recovery is to set the right economic and regulatory frameworks”.
Also on the panel, Dr Katherine Trebeck, advocacy lead at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, said that while the Scottish Government had come up with “plenty of fine rhetoric” on sustainability, “only tentative steps” had been made, calling out just a few “isolated and nascent projects” so far.
The virtual event began with a speech from Fiona Hyslop MSP, Scottish cabinet secretary for the economy, who revealed that a new joint government working group has been agreed with UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to strengthen domestic supply chains for the renewables sector.
She also welcomed the SCDI’s Clean Growth Manifesto – which was published last week – committed to work with the industry body’s leadership group to implement its recommendations.
Hyslop added that she had been struck during Covid-19 by the resilience and diversity of Scotland’s economy. “We’ve moved more collaboratively and quickly than ever,” she added.
The event also heard from Paul Scully MP, UK minister for small Business, consumers and labour markets at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who argued that Scotland can “absolutely lead the UK’s green recovery” and added that the “eyes of the world” will be on Glasgow during the COP26 climate conference next November.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can to protect jobs across the whole of the UK, and with a vaccine approved and being rolled out, the end is in sight,” he commented, noting that work is also well underway to refresh the UK’s industrial strategy.