In this period of economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote, the £100 million economic stimulus plan unveiled this week by the First Minister is very welcome.
If the objective is to stimulate employment, we would argue that investing in housing and smoothing the path for commercial and industrial building projects ought to be the Scottish Government’s first priority.
Over the past ten years, we have seen a dramatic shift in construction industry output away from housing and commercial and industrial activity towards infrastructure, which accounted for almost 30 per cent of a record Scottish construction output of more than £14 billion last year.
At the same time, construction employment has declined from more than 235,000 in 2008 to 175,000 in 2015. For the new plan to have maximum positive impact on business confidence and employment, any additional funding should be targeted towards housing as well as clearing obstacles to getting commercial and industrial building projects off the ground. In terms of policy, a good start here would be to reinstate business rates relief for empty industrial properties.
Managing Director, Scottish Building Federation, Edinburgh
The First Minister’s announcement of a £100 million package of investment to stimulate the Scottish economy in the wake of the EU vote is to be welcomed.
What however is deeply alarming is the failure of the UK government to say that it will match the more than £5 billion in EU funds delivered in the latest funding programme (2014 to 2020), in future. This was something I, among others, warned in the run up to the EU referendum in June.
The vast majority of funding is through the common agricultural policy, with massive financial gains for farmers. They are due to receive €4.6bn (£3.9bn) to develop food, drink and wider rural business, especially in more remote areas.
The European Structural Fund includes €941m of investment for communities to reduce poverty and boost skills development and economic activity. Seafood and marine sectors are due to receive €107m.
Previous programmes delivered around £49m to 1,000 projects, generating around £214m of investment and supporting 8,000 jobs. Scottish organisations have secured £186m in research and innovation funding since 2014.
It is a simple fact that if we accept Brexit and are forced to leave the EU against our will, funding for Scotland will be left in the hands of a Tory government in London who have never had Scotland’s best interests at heart.
Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh