Kate Forbes can help inspire hope in Scottish economy - Liz McAreavey

Liz McAreavey, CEO at Edinburgh Chamber of CommerceLiz McAreavey, CEO at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
Liz McAreavey, CEO at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
I’ve often pondered which is the more important in hard times – belief, or hope. I think it is hope. Martin Luther King once said “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

Sustaining hope through the past few years of challenges has been very difficult, particularly here in Scotland where we’ve had a government that seemed unable or perhaps unwilling to make the connection between social justice and the economy.

It is our economy that generates the funds our society needs to deliver education, jobs and the public services to improve lives for its citizens.

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This week I believe we have reason to be hopeful with the recent cabinet mini-reshuffle under our new First Minister John Swinney.

Kate Forbes has returned to government and has been sworn in as Deputy First Minister and importantly, appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Economy. Straight up economy, with no other portfolio roles (other than Gaelic) and that is deliberate to provide a clear message to the business community that the importance of our economy is now firmly back on the agenda.

This renewed hope extends to our need for a clear economic vision for Scotland and finally the opportunity for a reset of the relationship between policy-makers and business leaders.

So many are passionate about creating a brighter future for Scotland and are keen to engage in the sharing of insights and ideas, helping fill the policy deficit of recent years. Or at least earlier engagement in the policy-making process to ensure robust and well debated policies are deliverable, avoiding the unintended consequences we’ve seen in recent times.

What we now need are big ideas from big thinkers. We need to look back to the Enlightenment days of Adam Smith and David Hume when think tanks created public discourse and debate. When the voice of business was heard by and resonated with government. The Enlightenment opened up big thoughts, big ideas, ambition and adventure.

We see the manifestation of this in the city centre’s magnificent New Town, for example. And of course the formation of our Chamber of Commerce in 1786, when 70 businessmen met to ask – how can we grow the economy of the city?

William Creech asked his fellow members to go ahead with the formation of this Chamber of Commerce: “In order to assist the views of Parliament, in so far as they may be beneficial to the country, or to point out mistaken or partial measures that might be harmful. In short, to give spirit and vigour to commerce and manufactures, assistance to genius and industry to protect the just rights of individuals to encourage the active and discourage the idle. Such objects have a manifest tendency to make a people great, prosperous and happy.” It is still relevant today.

Independent think tanks – like Reform Scotland – are invaluable and can help in this process. If we want big transformative ideas then we must all step up and be active participants. We now need intelligent discourse, debate and bold ideas.

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Edinburgh Chamber will be using our convening power to bring together experienced and successful business leaders, passionate about the future of Scotland, to help formulate positive ideas and create a genuine partnership with government.

If we have a shared vision for our future based on reality in a global context, not extreme ideology, then we can become competitive, relevant and attractive as a destination for investment, talent and innovation.

In the meantime, as we develop these new relationships and open up renewed engagement with government, perhaps self-belief will return. We live in hope.

Liz McAreavey is Chief Executive, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce



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