Setting out its priorities for its £400 million budget for 2021/22, the economic development agency warns of the severe challenges posed by the pandemic and Brexit, with lower investment by businesses and reduced global trade.
It also predicts that the potential loss of skills by furloughed workers or those who have lost jobs is likely to affect Scotland’s productivity growth over the short term and hit average living standards and wages.
With recent economic statistics suggest Scotland’s economy may not return to pre-Covid levels until early 2024, Linda Hanna, interim chief executive of Scottish Enterprise said safeguarding and creating jobs was the key priority for the agency.
“As we continue to feel the impact from the pandemic and Brexit, Scotland’s unemployment levels are expected to rise,” she warned.
“That’s why our plan for the year focuses on working with businesses and industry to safeguard and create jobs. Good jobs, green jobs and jobs that can improve the health and wealth of the nation simultaneously.”
Targets for the year ahead include supporting the creation of up to 10,500 jobs paying at least the real living wage.
The agency recently launched a £4m “Green Jobs Call” to deliver support to companies transitioning to a net zero future with grants from £50,000 up to a maximum of £500,000 on offer.
It is also looking to enable up to £425m of R&D investment by businesses and support some £1bn of exports by Scottish firms.
With the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on the horizon, Scottish Enterprise will also now start to record CO2 savings from projects it supports and plans to work with SEPA and NatureScot to develop ways to measure contribution to the transition to a net zero economy. Businesses and organisations will also need to demonstrate their net zero commitment as a condition of Scottish Enterprise’s support. Hanna, who was appointed after Steve Dunlop stepped down as CEO last October after only two-and-a-half years in the role, said the pandemic had provided an opportunity to “reshape our economy so that post-pandemic Scotland flourishes with industries that are globally competitive and sustainable for generations to come”.
“Our plan aims to help harness the economic potential of digital, net zero, health and advanced manufacturing and we will be doing all we can to maximise opportunities like COP26, both in terms of accelerating our transition to a net zero economy and in opening up global market opportunities for Scottish businesses.
“We know there are challenging times ahead. Scotland’s economy may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 but now is the time to look to the future with hope and ambition as we grow a fairer, greener Scotland for all.”
In the latest financial year, Scottish Enterprise delivered £569m of economic development support including almost £220m of Covid-19 related support to around 4,000 businesses employing more than 70,000 people.