The First Minister was speaking at the 25th edition of the forum, with the theme this year Transforming Scotland's Economy, and aiming to see MSPs “engage with the business community on how we can work together to seize Scotland’s economic potential, create secure, sustainable and satisfying jobs and support”.
She said the Scottish government has frequently had to make changes to rules and regulations at very short notice, “in the interest of protecting people's health and lives”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “A few weeks ago, for example, we delayed a decision on whether Glasgow would stay in level three or move down to level two. Now there was a very good reason for that – we had to base our decision on the best possible data. But we also had to act in a way that protected public health.
"The delay in that decision, of course, caused frustration for many businesses, I understand that... Although we have genuinely tried incredibly hard to communicate with the business community, I know that the nature of what we have been dealing with has meant that at times, you have felt that communication has not met your needs. I'm genuinely sorry about that, when that happens, and want to reassure you that we will continue to strive to do better as we move out of the pandemic, to talk with you to listen to you, and to put the business community and your needs at the heart of our decisions.”
However, she also highlighted that Scotland boasts a “remarkable” generation of entrepreneurs setting up companies in Scotland, and “incredible” skills base, also noting that the Scottish government has just announced that 25 projects designed to help meet skills needs in various sectors will receive a share of up to £20 million as part of the second phase of the National Transition Training Fund.
The forum also mentioned what can be done to help women assist in the economic recovery. Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Data has shown us that there is work to be done to encourage and motivate and create the opportunities for more women to establish their own businesses... we want to engage actively with a range of different representatives of the business community, and many women who have been successful in establishing business to find out what would be the specific and particular support that will assist us in that endeavour.”
As for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) overall, finance and economy minister Kate Forbes said: “They are more resilient, because they've had to be, than perhaps any of us thought and perhaps any of the businesses themselves thought. But they're also, as we emerge, more fragile than they've ever been. And we need small businesses, we need local businesses.”
The Scottish government has also announced that the Scottish economy contracted by 1.9 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Ms Forbes added: “I'm sure that one day restrictions will be a thing of the past and that with those freedoms, we will get the opportunity to restore and rebuild our economy.”