Scottish election must focus on economic recovery, say industry chiefs

The coming Holyrood election must be about rebuilding Scotland's economy from the "devastating impact of the pandemic", one of the country's leading business organisations has said.

The incoming Scottish Government will face a greater set of challenges than any previous Holyrood administration, according to CBI Scotland.

The organisation has now called on all the main parties to ensure growth is at the centre of their election campaigns as Scots prepare to go to the polls on May 6.

The SNP has previously indicated the constitution will be at the heart of the Holyrood vote, with Nicola Sturgeon insisting that a pro-independence majority would be a mandate for a second referendum on leaving the UK.

A shopper walks past Topshop on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

But CBI Scotland has published its own manifesto for the election that calls for the incoming administration to work with industry to rebuild the economy and "re-establish Scotland on a world stage" as a major exporting nation.

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CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “After a steady diet of Brexit uncertainty, Covid-19 and decades of weak productivity growth, the Scottish economy is in desperate need of a recipe for success.

"Neither government nor business can deliver that alone – it must be done together.

Tracy Black has called for a focus on the economy

“This election must be about rebuilding Scotland from the devastating impact of the pandemic. It’s crucial that the economy is front and centre of the political debate.

"A strong economy that creates growth and good jobs is the only sustainable way of raising wages, improving living standards and ultimately securing prosperity for all Scots."

Scotland’s economy shrank by 19 per cent during the first lockdown last spring. A period of recovery followed as activity reopened later in the year, but the latest lockdown is expected to see another massive fall in GDP.

In addition to rebuilding the economy, the organisation says the next government must provide clear leadership on climate change ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November. Scotland’s workforce must also be prepared for an era of lasting technological change.

It also calls for the creation of a flexible skills system in line with industry needs, alongside schemes to incentivise lifelong learning. There should also be a focus on digital skills and bolstering flexible funding for universities and colleges.

The 2020s must also be the decade of delivery towards net-zero emissions, the CBI says, through a revolution in electric vehicle infrastructure. Measures to encourage energy efficient buildings are also called for and a mix of options for low-carbon heat.

Political leaders should also set out a long-term tax strategy, along with measures to cut red-tape and business costs to boost growth.

Firms in Scotland must also be "encouraged and supported" to trade globally.

Ms Black said: “The pandemic has shown the value of business to be more than economic.

"From retail to restaurants, banks to building sites, businesses are fundamental to our way of life. People’s jobs are about so much more than just paying the bills – they create social connections, support good mental health and provide a sense of purpose.

“Politicians across the spectrum should champion the positive role business plays in society. By making enterprise a genuine partner, the next government will be able to provide bolder, better and fairer solutions to the challenges Scotland faces now and in years to come.”

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