In June the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed to the new National Performance Framework. A document that sets out ambitions for the country and how we will measure progress towards them.
It also renewed our purpose, “To focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”
This provides a clear, focused mission that will be an enabler and catalyst for actions, within government and beyond. In my new role as Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work I am determined to make this vision a reality
Combining the finance and economy portfolios into one Cabinet position, supported by Ministers for Business, Trade and Finance and Digital Economy will provide a cohesive platform to ensure that the government’s finance, tax and business support functions are aligned to better deliver sustainable economic growth. The new ministerial team means business.
As a ministerial team we have a strong platform to build upon. As a government, we have increased our investment in the economy this year by 64%, as part of our £2.4 billion investment in enterprise and skills. We have the most competitive business rates system in the UK and we are supporting sectoral and business growth, by for example delivering of the National Manufacturing Institute (NMIS) and the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB).
The Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, which is a first step to NMIS, will open later this year and the Building Scotland Fund, which is a precursor to SNIB, will support £150m Investment in our economy over the next 3 years.
Scotland has huge economic potential and we are well placed to take advantage of the economic opportunities that come from our established strengths and innovation and technological change.
One of those advantages is our internationally recognised brand. We are a destination of choice for tourism and our exports from food and drink to oil and gas, and from manufacturing to financial services are of the highest calibre.
Another of those advantages is our size. In many ways we are an optimally sized country, with an accessible, nimble government where it is easy to get the key players into the room to make sure decisions are taken and opportunities are not missed.
That’s why I’ve spent the days since being appointed to my expanded brief listening to experts in business, trade unions and civic life.
It’s not always fashionable to listen to experts, I value it, and like the evidence-based approach to decisions and will look to build consensus wherever possible, not just with businesses and with trades unions, but across political parties too.
Every political party in Scotland wants to see our country succeed, to have a strong economy with good, well-paying jobs. While we will often disagree on how this should best be achieved, I believe there is scope for far greater collaboration. Our Parliament should be sending a clear message to the world that Scotland is open for business.
As Finance Secretary I have had to work to build consensus to ensure that the Scottish Government’s budget gets cross party support. I want to carry that engagement forward into my work to support the Scottish economy. While robust debate is part and parcel of democracy the public rightly expects their politicians to work together for the good of the country.
We have faced criticism for the number of strategies that we have, but in my view this reflects the complexity of the modern economic environment and our desire to find bespoke solutions. It’s not the number of strategies that matters, but how effective they are and what they achieve. That is my focus; purposeful actions to deliver sustainable inclusive growth.
It’s well reported, despite the fundamental strengths of Scotland’s economy our GDP growth has been, and is predicted to be below trend, however the opportunities are there to accelerate growth.
Actions on population growth, participation in the labour market and productivity are essential, and require UK government to play their part too, or to give the Scottish Parliament the tools to address them.
Where we have the powers we will continue to use them to best effect. Our drive on internationalisation, infrastructure investment, innovation and Fair Work is gathering pace and our business tax policy is purposefully designed to accelerate growth. I will continue to meet and listen to business and trade union leaders to focus our actions on business growth, jobs and Fair Work.
While most of the attention following from the publication of the Sustainable Growth Commission was what it had to say about the economy of an independent Scotland, it also had a number of recommendations on what we could do boost the economy using the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament. This will form a key part of my thinking as I look to use every lever at our disposal to boost Scotland’s economy.
We want Scotland to be the best place to live, work and invest. We are a government committed to growing the economy in a sustainable and inclusive way. Scotland has huge economic potential and we are determined to work with business to unlock it.