ONE of Scotland’s senior business figures will tomorrow warn that the nation’s economic growth is being held back by “parochial rivalries”.
BT Scotland director Brendan Dick will tell the Falkirk Council Business Panel Conference that regional communities have been too focused on outperforming neighbours and, as a result, are failing to seize much larger global opportunities.
“There’s certainly lots going on in business hubs such as Glasgow and Edinburgh to embrace new digital technologies, however, the old rivalries that exist between these cities sometimes mean they are too focused competing with each other to see the bigger picture,” Dick will say.
“It’s time to look beyond the borders of Scotland and the UK and channel this energy to succeed in a global marketplace.”
This lack of ambition is not limited to Scotland’s east-west divide. According to research carried out by BT last year, both urban and rural economies could benefit from additional economic growth of up to 0.5 per cent per year if all businesses fully embraced technology.
“From Falkirk’s perspective, it is an area that prides itself in being at the heart of the economy in Scotland, but what’s to stop itself from thinking it’s at the centre of the international economy,” Dick will ask. “The challenge is for the local business community to address this, using digital technology.”
BT is rolling out next-generation broadband as part of the Scottish Government’s Step Change infrastructure programme, with Dick due to update his audience on the group’s strategy for creating “world-class connectivity”.
The company said last month that it would create 150 engineering jobs in Scotland to support the rollout of its fibre broadband. The announcement followed a successful tender by BT to install connections in homes and businesses in the Highlands and Islands as part of the region’s £146 million next-generation broadband project.
BT expects fibre broadband to be extended to 85 per cent of Scottish premises by the end of 2015, rising to about 95 per cent by the end of 2017.
The Business Panel Conference is being held in the wake of last month’s go-ahead for Falkirk Council to launch a £67m infrastructure programme through the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) scheme.
Under TIF, councils can fund infrastructure by borrowing against future income from business rates. The Falkirk plan includes improved links to the M9 motorway to create more business space, plus major flood defences to protect the port and refinery at Grangemouth.
Dennis Goldie, Falkirk Council’s spokesman on economic development, said the area is gearing up for major economic expansion. He added: “On-going work and support from Falkirk Council and Business Gateway will create opportunities for growth that firms in the area should embrace to ensure our local businesses compete in the digital economy at an international level.”