How Scottish Government's economic strategy will make Scotland £8 billion richer – Kate Forbes MSP

After an unprecedented period of challenges for many businesses, employers and workers, it’s time to lift our eyes and focus on Scotland’s enormous economic potential.

Scotland can look forward to a fairer, wealthier and greener future (Picture: William Edwards/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland can look forward to a fairer, wealthier and greener future (Picture: William Edwards/AFP via Getty Images)

That is why this week I published a new national strategy to guide our economy over what will be a decisive decade for us all.

The strategy offers renewed clarity of our vision for Scotland, with a ruthless focus on delivery. It is a strategy that sets out how government, our public bodies and economic agencies, education system, trade unions, the third sector and crucially, industry and businesses across Scotland, can work together to achieve common goals.

The bold and ambitious goals in the strategy will require us to work together; no sector or organisation can achieve these objectives in isolation. Our aims are clear – we want to give entrepreneurs, businesses and people the tools they need to succeed.

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The strategy has been developed in conjunction with some of Scotland’s leading business figures, both directly and via our expert Advisory Council. It is also supported by extensive engagement and detailed analysis and economic modelling to inform our policy priorities and actions.

This analysis shows the potential benefits to our economy of key areas of the programme, with economic output estimated to be £8 billion higher in 2032 than otherwise would have been the case.

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This Scottish Government is firmly focused on using the powers we have to make Scotland an entrepreneurial nation and one of the best places in Europe to live, work and start or grow businesses.

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We’re starting from a good place – we know that Scotland has an abundance of economic potential. Our natural resources, heritage, talent, creativity, academic institutions and business base, in both established and emerging sectors, are the envy of many across the world.

We want to build on this and transform Scotland into a well-being economy that is founded on fairer work, better wages and offers people a route out of poverty through seizing these opportunities.

In November, we reached an important milestone with GDP rising above its pre-pandemic level for the first time and this continued into December. The employment rate is also currently high at 74.1 per cent.

But we know we can be better. We want to have a strong economy that outperforms the last decade, both in terms of economic performance and tackling structural economic inequalities.

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We want people to be at the very heart of an economy that works for all and where everybody, in every community and region of the country, shares in our success.

This all needs to be considered within our current constitutional position in which macro-economic, employment, energy and the majority of revenue raising powers are reserved to the UK Government.

This strategy therefore focuses on actions that can be taken within the current arrangements. It is the Scottish Government’s view that the full powers of independence would enable an even more ambitious and joined-up approach to transforming Scotland’s economy, delivering greater benefits to our population.

Work is being undertaken right now to develop the economic prospectus for independence, which will be published in advance of a referendum.

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As part of the strategy, we will make Scotland an even more welcoming place for innovators and entrepreneurs by appointing a new chief entrepreneurship officer to the Scottish Government, who will ensure that entrepreneurial ambition is entrenched at the heart of policy-making. A national network of pre-scaler hubs will be created to help new businesses with high growth prospects access world-class support and advice.

And we will use public investment to help scale up innovative start-up businesses – enabling them to compete on a global stage. That means driving up productivity and innovation, backing our existing industries and investing in the industries of tomorrow.

This strategy will help businesses take full advantage of new markets and provide capital investment for renewable hydrogen production hubs to help make Scotland a leading nation in sustainable hydrogen production.

These are transformative economic ambitions that, if we work together to achieve, will be delivered while tackling climate change and transitioning our economy to net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, five years ahead of most other developed economies.

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To attract domestic and international investment for projects working to support that just transition, we will establish an investor panel chaired by the First Minister that will help us build a net-zero economy by identifying and then investing in the economic opportunities of decarbonisation. A cornerstone of our economic ambitions must be to build a Scotland that invests in all our people and builds a fairer, more equal society.

That is why this strategy will deliver economic growth that helps to tackles poverty.

By investing in one of our greatest economic assets – our people – we will offer business access to a simplified skills and retraining programme. This strategy will help to eradicate structural barriers for disabled people, women, those with care experience, and people from minority ethnic groups.

It will also give workers the opportunity to access, sustain and progress in new good green jobs. A new skills guarantee for workers in carbon-intensive industries will also be launched and we will implement the next phase of the Green Jobs Workforce Academy.

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By delivering on the five key programmes of action – each underpinned by specific tasks – we will ensure Scotland is recognised throughout the world as a fairer, wealthier and greener nation that took the decisions required to transform its economy as it emerged from the pandemic.

We must now be bold, ruthless and laser-focussed to maximise the impact of the priority actions we have identified and Scotland’s new transformational strategy will mean more high quality jobs, better skills, and new ideas for the people of this country.

Kate Forbes is Finance and Economy Secretary and SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch

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