At a time when our business communities face uncertainty and change, Chambers of Commerce are – as always – there to fight their corner. While the businesses and business communities we represent across the UK are diverse, three common themes come through from Chamber conversations the length and breadth of the UK.
A better business environment
Despite the political dramas of the last year, there is clear message from businesses – policy decisions taken here in the UK matter as much, if not more, than Brexit.
Even the best possible deal with the EU won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if the conditions at home aren’t right for our firms to capitalise on new opportunities and be globally competitive.
Both the Scottish and UK governments must do more to relieve the burden of upfront costs that stymie growth and investment, tackle growing skills shortages, and invest in physical and digital infrastructure projects that support business growth.
Unlock the potential of place
As the UK government ponders a new Industrial Strategy – the third such iteration in my time in the Chamber Network alone – we need finally to unlock the potential of place.
For decades, governments at every level have focused on ‘sexy’ sectors and technologies – and have forgotten that simpler interventions sometimes make the biggest difference to helping businesses grow.
This time, in the name of Chamber business communities, we’re fighting for an Industrial Strategy that helps places reach their potential. Fixing the fundamentals in each business community will do more to raise Scotland’s – and the UK’s – GDP than another round of lookalike sector strategies.
More international opportunities
Brexit brings business both risk and opportunity. At a moment of such significant change, firms across the UK have a real opportunity to break into new markets and forge new relationships. But the support available from both the Scottish and UK governments must be right.
Practical, face-to-face support – including that provided by Chambers – is sorely needed. Fancy websites and marketing campaigns alone won’t be enough. And governments must co-ordinate their support programmes better, to ensure a real ‘team UK’ approach to boosting international trade.
The months ahead will be full of political ‘noise’ and distraction. Now more than ever, our collective voice, both in Scotland and across the UK, is critical. Chambers can, and will, be there – so that business can focus on what it does best.