Joined-up thinking could give Scotland the edge

Lagging behind in a connected online age of smartphones, tablets and wi-fi. Picture: Contributed
Lagging behind in a connected online age of smartphones, tablets and wi-fi. Picture: Contributed
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THERE has been much debate around whether or not the recent UK government spending review was too radical or not radical enough.

However, there are some economic truths Scotland cannot get away from.

In almost every performance index Scotland lags the rest of the UK.

The North Sea and wider oil and gas supply chain shine on as usual. But there have been some recent positive indicators elsewhere. Some surveys have shown growth in areas such as back-office financial services, for example.

Major investments and pensions companies with office functions in Scotland are continuing to invest and create well-paid jobs, especially in Edinburgh and Glasgow, which are centres of excellence in the field.

There has also been increased optimism for the first time in six years, but much of that is a result of reverse psychology: companies determined to be positive and move forward, even if that’s not immediately reflected in the bottom-line.

Most business leaders recognise there are three to five years of relatively tough times ahead, so what else can be done to help drive the Scottish economy towards better productivity?

There needs to be a greater focus on innovation and speeding up change.

We are living in a connected online age of smartphones, tablets and wi-fi, but large swathes of this country have not even caught up yet with 3G. A totally focused and concentrated effort is needed to see genuine progress in connectivity.

Radical thinking is also required on how services can be delivered in more creative ways in partnership with the private sector, to stimulate the economy across the board. Much of this depends on the immediacy that reliable technology brings.

If the latest technology can be readily available and applied to solving problems in education, engineering, energy, health, housing, social care provision and travel, delivery could be massively improved and potentially billions saved, not to mention creating massive commercial opportunity and invention that could be exported internationally.

That will be a huge challenge, but the harder we press the accelerator in a joined up way the quicker the economy will speed up.

• David Watt is executive director of the Institute of Directors Scotland

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