CMS annual business conference in Scotland details unveiled

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Scottish businesses of all sizes are invited to join a range of experts to discuss how to deliver growth at the annual business conference of law firm CMS, writes David Lee

Scottish businesses of all sizes are invited to join a range of experts to discuss how to deliver growth at the annual business conference of law firm CMS.

With inflation falling and interest rates expected to follow suit, the economic outlook for Scotland looks more positive – but what actions are needed to enhance productivity, and help businesses to grow and thrive?

New research on Scotland’s current and future skills needs will be presented at the conference on October 3rd by Mairi Spowage, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute.

There will also be a detailed assessment of the political backdrop, with a new UK Government in place after July's election and a change of tone in Scotland with John Swinney and Kate Forbes adopting a more business-friendly approach.

“We have already seen significant economic and political changes since our business conference in October 2023 focused on doing business in challenging times,” said Allan Wernham, Managing Partner of CMS Scotland. “Inflation has fallen rapidly and by the time of the event, it seems likely we'll see interest rates coming down too.

“There have been significant political changes at the top in Scotland and when our event takes place, the new UK Government will have been in power for three months.”

A senior political figure will analyse those changes in conversation with Kirsty Wark, who returns as event host. Louise Hellem, Chief Economist at the CBI, will analyse the macroeconomic position before Mairi Spowage reveals the results of the skills research. Other speakers will be revealed soon.

Mr Wernham added: “CMS created this annual conference to give an expert read-out on the economic and political backdrop to doing business in Scotland to companies of all sizes, and from all sectors.

“Since last year’s conference, we have held three roundtable discussions on big issues affecting Scottish businesses – on the economy, increasing role of artificial intelligence (AI), and growing importance of diversity and inclusion. At all three events, expert speakers opened up fascinating and valuable discussions, which we will continue at the October conference.”

Catriona Campbell, Chief Information & Technology Officer for EY in UK & Ireland, told the AI roundtable: “The biggest mistake that businesses can make is ignoring AI completely. We’re in a period of rapid change; the AI we have now is the worst we will ever see in our lives.”

Alan Nelson, Glasgow Managing Partner for CMS Scotland, said: “Everybody is talking about AI but there is a degree of nervousness and reluctance about it. We’re starting to see the power of AI and use cases emerging; businesses know what they want, but most are not there yet.”

At the diversity roundtable, Ana Stewart, an entrepreneur, investor and author of the Scottish Government's Pathways Report on the dearth of female entrepreneurs, urged businesses to take diversity and inclusion seriously.

She said: “It’s not about understanding diversity, it’s about embracing inclusion. It's not about tick-boxes, it’s about a commitment to changing culture.”

She stressed that hard evidence had to be at the root of meaningful change:  “Data is the basis of everything. Hard evidence about diversity and inclusion might not look good at the beginning, but in the long run, it will bear fruit – because diversity of ideas and thought creates business benefits.”

Sebastian Burnside, Chief Economist at NatWest, told the economy roundtable that there were “serious contradictions” in the Scottish economy.

He said: “There are strong asset levels, but also high numbers of insolvencies. We have the highest levels of wage growth in a generation and very low unemployment, but also record levels of energy debt and significant food bank use.”

However he insisted that there were “strong opportunities for Scottish businesses who could deliver good-value products and services to consumers”.

Allan Wernham concluded: “All these issues and more are up for discussion in October – and we look forward to welcoming a wide range of businesses to take part in these vital conversations.”

CMS Scotland's annual conference takes place at Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) on Thursday October 3rd. Find out more here.


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