John Swinney to pledge to 'dedicate every fibre in my being' to driving economic growth

First Minister John Swinney and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes at the first meeting of their Scottish cabinet. First Minister John Swinney and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes at the first meeting of their Scottish cabinet.
First Minister John Swinney and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes at the first meeting of their Scottish cabinet.
John Swinney will promise to unite businesses, government and universities together to drive economic growth, as Kate Forbes vows to cut red tape to boost businesses

First Minister John Swinney will today seek to woo business with a pledge to drive economic growth “for all” after his deputy Kate Forbes promised to cut red tape and “get stuff done”.

Mr Swinney will say he will “dedicate every fibre in my being” to achieving economic growth in Scotland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It comes after Ms Forbes promised to remove bureaucratic barriers for businesses to help boost the economy and make Scotland attractive as a place for global investment.

Mr Swinney is due to attend the ground-breaking for the new Ardersier Port today in the Moray Firth, where it is said he will set out the need for all sections of Scotland’s economy and society to unite to deliver strong economic growth. He will call on business, trade unions, civic society and colleges and universities to work more closely with government “in the national interest”.

He is expected to say: “My government will support business and economic growth - not for its own sake, but for a clear social purpose.

“It is the outcomes of growth which will deliver public funding we can invest in public services like the NHS and schools and ultimately create a fairer society.”

He will say Scotland is “blessed with extraordinary natural resources” as well as a skilled workforce and world-leading universities which can join together to make Scotland an “even more formidable economic force”.

Mr Swinney will add: “With an economy working to its full potential, public services would get the investment they need to thrive, workers would receive fair pay and no longer be struggling with the cost of living and not a single child in Scotland would be forced to live in poverty.

“That is the goal my government is aiming for as we seek to drive economic growth, and that is what I will dedicate every fibre of my being to achieving as First Minister.”

Ms Forbes wrote yesterday that she has returned to the frontbenches after 13 months out to “get stuff done” and cut red rape, and says she wants to boost key exports of products such as whisky and salmon.

That pledge has already been welcomed by businesses.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The deputy first minister hits the right tone and we are enthusiastic in her action-orientated approach.

“To achieve results that will help businesses to grow we need better partnership working between business and government.

“Boosting our international exports, attracting investment, reducing regulatory burdens and creating jobs are the priorities for business and we look forward to working with the deputy first minister and the Scottish Government to help achieve these ambitions.”

David Lonsdale from the Scottish Retail Consortium added: “The devolved regulatory burden has swollen and retailers are facing a gamut of regulatory initiatives, in particular on health and the environment, which take little account of trading conditions or the practicalities of implementation.

“If ministers can ease the burden that would be hugely positive for retailers and firms more generally.”

Ms Forbes wrote in The Sunday Times that she wants to see Scotland “open for business”.

She wrote: “My plan is to prove that, to reduce the hurdles to investment, to market the opportunities and to promise jobs and wages, not bureaucracy.”

In her piece she said there were three ways to move the economy forward - decarbonisation, innovation, and boosting exports.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said: “Our most prized food exports - salmon and whisky - continue to be highly in demand across the world.

“There has been a 200 per cent increase in food exports over the last 10 years, and the industry is worth £15 billion.

“These are huge figures, and they will keep growing, despite rocky trading conditions entirely due to the Tories’ decision to leave not just the EU but the huge single market and customs union.”

A spokesperson for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “This is welcome recognition from the new deputy first minister about the strategic importance of the Scotch whisky industry to Scotland’s economy.

“By focusing on policies geared towards future growth, the Scottish Government can enable the industry to create more jobs and generate more investment across the country.

“The Scotch whisky industry stands ready to work in partnership with the government, and ensure its policies match our ambition to boost the economy.”

Ms Forbes, who was previously finance secretary under Nicola Sturgeon, added that focusing on these export markets could also help tackle depopulation in coastal and rural areas, which she warns is an “extremely pressing” issue.

The new economy secretary represents Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch at the Scottish Parliament, and says growing the working age population in these areas will not only boost the economy, but ensure public services are maintained.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She added: “The plan is simple - get the economy firing on all cylinders, and it will power a better future.

“The potential is enormous.”

As Mr Swinney and Ms Forbes enter their first full week of heading up the Scottish Government, attention now turns to what pieces of legislation are likely to continue on from Humza Yousaf’s premiership.

Mr Swinney has vowed to lead from the moderate centre-left and focus on things such as the economy and public services.

This has left many to wonder if policies from the previous government such as a ban on conversion therapy are likely to continue.

This is partly because as a minority government, the SNP will need to focus on policies where consensus can be found across the chamber. 

Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens and a former government minister, says the new government needs to give a “watertight ban on so-called conversion therapy” and not dilute the proposed legislation in any way.

Conversion therapy attempts to alter or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

However last week Dr Hilary Cass, author of the Cass report which concluded trans children had been let down by the healthcare system in England, told a Holyrood committee clinicians are fearful of being punished under this proposed legislation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Last week Mr Swinney said he was still committed to introducing this legislation.

The Greens have also written to the new First Minister asking for him to reaffirm his support for buffer zones around abortion clinics, which would prevent anti-abortion demonstrations including silent prayer vigils outside hospitals.

Gillian Mackay, the MSP introducing this bill, says she is concerned as Ms Forbes had previously indicated her support for “silent prayer” protests - however when the bill was voted on earlier this month at stage one, Ms Forbes voted in favour of it.

Last week the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation also raised concerns about policies which could limit where they can and cannot fish.

In 2023 the Scottish Government was forced to drop controversial proposals to introduce highly-protected marine areas, which would have banned fishing in around 10 per cent of Scottish waters.

Elspeth Macdonald, the federation’s chief executive, has since said the government could still introduce these through the back door, as they have pledged to look at enhanced marine protection.

Other areas that could be affected are steps to decarbonise heating in homes, such as replacing gas boilers with heat pumps - they have been dubbed “unrealistic”, and Ms Forbes was critical of regulations which mean newbuild homes cannot install wood-burning stoves. 

Mr Swinney’s first cabinet meeting in charge took place in Bute House, the First Minister’s official residence in Edinburgh, on Friday morning - the cabinet will next meet at its usual time of Tuesday morning. 



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.