Ahead of the Scottish election in May, CBI Scotland is calling on all parties to put the economy front and centre of the debate.
The membership group pointed out that the next Scottish Government will face a greater set of challenges than any previous administration.
In addition to rebuilding the economy, it must provide clear leadership on climate change – especially ahead of the COP26 summit – and ensure Scotland’s workforce is fit for an era of lasting technological change.
CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “After a steady diet of Brexit uncertainty, Covid-19 and decades of weak productivity growth, the Scottish economy is in desperate need of a recipe for success. Neither government nor business can deliver that alone – it must be done together.
“This election must be about rebuilding Scotland from the devastating impact of the pandemic. It’s crucial that the economy is front and centre of the political debate. A strong economy that creates growth and good jobs is the only sustainable way of raising wages, improving living standards and ultimately securing prosperity for all Scots.”
Launching its Holyrood 2021 manifesto, CBI Scotland outlined a series of pro-enterprise recommendations:
1. Build Scotland’s economic recovery in partnership with business.
- Invest in people to give them the skills they need by creating an agile, flexible skills system that is responsive to industry needs; prioritising schemes to incentivise lifelong learning; focusing on soft and digital skills; bolstering flexible funding for universities and colleges; and enhancing the apprenticeship offer.
- Start now to make the 2020s a decade of delivery towards net-zero emissions through a revolution in electric vehicle infrastructure; incentivising energy efficient buildings; creating a mix of options for low-carbon heat; and leveraging existing business and academic expertise in sustainability.
- Refurbish, repurpose, and renew Scotland’s infrastructure for a better-connected future by fast-tracking gigabit technology; setting ambitious housebuilding targets; prioritising connections to key markets; and utilising digital solutions like smart ticketing to offer consumer choice and encourage more sustainable transport options.
2. Unlock Scotland’s competitive advantage.
- Make Scotland a great place to live, work and do business by setting out a long-term tax strategy; cutting red-tape and business costs to allow firms to grow and invest; and promoting an open data culture that can boost productivity and wellbeing.
- Invest in innovation and build on the appetite for tech adoption by simplifying the innovation support landscape; incentivising innovation through public procurement; and considering how an enterprise partnership between universities in Scotland could be created to help turn more great ideas into successful businesses.
- Re-establish Scotland on the world stage by taking steps to develop a true exporting culture; encouraging and supporting firms to trade globally; and working with business to showcase Scotland as a destination for inward investment.
3. Champion the role of business in an economy that works for everyone.
- Recognise the value of business is more than tax revenues by championing its wider social role in promoting personal connections, supporting good mental health and providing a sense of purpose.
- Increase collaboration between employers and schools at all levels to ensure young people are well prepared for the future of work and that opportunities are available to all.
- Build on the partnership forged between government, business and society in response to Covid-19 by making business a key partner in policy development, from design to implementation.
Black concluded: “The pandemic has shown the value of business to be more than economic. From retail to restaurants, banks to building sites, businesses are fundamental to our way of life – people’s jobs are about so much more than just paying the bills – they create social connections, support good mental health and provide a sense of purpose.
“Politicians across the spectrum should champion the positive role business plays in society.
“By making enterprise a genuine partner, the next government will be able to provide bolder, better and fairer solutions to the challenges Scotland faces now and in years to come.”