Martin Flanagan: CBI boss aims to build links with Holyrood

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn is expected to tell Scottish business leaders and assorted politicians tonight that in a world of upheaval there is a compelling case for overseas firms to target Scotland for investment.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

But, speaking at the leading business lobby group’s Scotland annual dinner, Fairbairn is expected to say there are various ways – including strong collaboration between Holyrood and the big business community – to put a following wind behind such an aspiration.

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The CBI has previously set out its vision for adding up to £25 billion to the Scottish economy over the next decade. Fairbairn is said to be enthusiastic about First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to give greater freedoms for schools as a grass roots step to achieving this. She is also expected to urge Holyrood to move quickly on its promise to implement the recommendations of the Barclay Review on business rates north of the Border.

Education and business rates – two of the perennial concerns of the business community. Fairbairn is also expected to urge the Scottish Government to set a clear target for both public and private R&D spending so that progress can be monitored rather than just dwell in the land of pious hope.

She is also expected to call for Holyrood to establish a Scottish business-led productivity taskforce to help address an apparently intractable problem that acts as a brake on the UK economy and is ultimately a depressant on wages and living standards.

In an ideal world such Holyrood/business collaboration might lead foreign investors away from questioning why to invest in Scotland, but rather think why not?

Ale and hearty

The Good Pub Guide’s latest annual survey of UK beer prices has for the first time broken out the Scottish Islands figures separately from the Scottish mainland and put the former in the “expensive” segment.

The average price of a pint on the islands is £3.80 compared with £3.67 on the mainland. Transport lies at the heart of the disparity: it obviously costs more to transport ale to the islands and that is reflected in the price.

Islanders can only console themselves that they are not paying the “rip-off” prices of Londoners (£4.20), and hope the craft beer industry puts down roots locally!