Scottish business leaders have backed a report by Lord Heseltine demanding more is done to promote economic growth in a bid to help Britain overcome the financial crisis.
The Conservative peer and former deputy prime minister yesterday published his UK Government-commissioned report on how to restore Britain’s economic health.
The 228-page paper, titled “No Stone Unturned”, makes 89 recommendations to help industry. One of its key aims is to move £49 billion from central government to the English regions to help local leaders and businesses.
Lord Heseltine said Britain should strengthen controls on foreign takeovers and speed up decisions on airport expansion.
The report said that Britain’s growth strategy of tax cuts and deregulation would not provide a fast track to economic health and needed to be reassessed.
“Continuing as we are is not an acceptable option,” he wrote in the report.
Lord Heseltine called for a “war psychology” to overcome economic crisis and pressed for an end to ministerial uncertainty on sectors such as energy and aviation. On his belief that controls on foreign takeovers were needed to block deals that did not favour Britain, Mr Heseltine said: “I reject the notion that regulation in itself hinders growth.
“Good, well-designed regulation can stop the abuse of market power and improve the way markets work to the benefit of business employees and consumers.”
Lord Heseltine claimed too much power was focused in London and called for public money to “mobilise the potential” of provincial English cities.
He recommended the creation of a national growth council, to be chaired by the Prime Minister and with a cross-government focus.
“Central government must retain control of important, large-scale infrastructure projects. This includes our motorway network, national rail network and airports, as well as our energy networks,” Lord Heseltine said.
The peer called for a clearer strategy on what the UK needs, citing the delay and “inertia” over building airport capacity in the south east of England.
Lord Heseltine’s report was welcomed by David Lonsdale, assistant director of CBI Scotland.
Mr Lonsdale said: “The sense of urgency and action on growth enhancing measures from policymakers that Lord Heseltine has demanded applies equally in Scotland.
“For example, Scotland’s planning system has yet to become an effective catalyst for growth, our devolved approach to public procurement fails to best serve either the taxpayer or suppliers, and we still witness too many examples of red tape that hamper business expansion.”
Mr Lonsdale added: “The UK administration’s restrictions on the ability of London’s key interlinking airports to expand is short-sighted and not helpful for Scottish firms seeking to win new business overseas, and a change of heart is a pressing concern for industry. Lord Heseltine’s call for an early decision is therefore particularly welcome.”
In the House of Commons, David Cameron welcomed the report. But his Labour opposite number Ed Miliband claimed the report was a stinging critique of UK Government policy.
Mr Miliband claimed: “He said there was no strategy for jobs and growth, business had no confidence (and) deregulation – your chosen approach – is not the answer.”