We should acknowledge the great work of many of our public and private services personnel who have been at the coal face working exceptionally hard throughout the festive season on behalf of us all.
If you are anything like me, the break provided a period of relief, but also an opportunity to reflect, and begin to plan for 2020 and beyond. As part of our reflections, my experience has taught me we also need to learn and be honest and open in relation to what has not quite gone the way we thought; or adopting revised strategies and actions to avoid costly errors as we plan for our future. It is a brave person who truly reflects and has the courage and leadership qualities to change the direction of travel enabling our dreams, goals and ambitions to be surpassed whatever role we perform in our communities.
On reflecting, 2019 has been a bruising year, with a dramatic finish provided by the first winter general election in decades. This came after years of uncertainty that followed in the wake of UK’s vote to leave the European Union combined with the growing trade war between USA and China, resulting in yet more increases to the cost base for many Scottish businesses. Add to this the turmoil wrought by the banking crisis and subsequent recession of the previous decade, and you have a recipe for an underperforming economy and an appetite for better conditions.
Businesses in Scotland will need to dig deep to embrace the upheavals the coming era brings. Thanks to Brexit, these include an urgent need to internationalise and target new markets for sales and growth. As old trade rules are scrapped, businesses demand a seat at the table where they are being rewritten.
During this time, Scottish and our partners across the UK business community, have been battered and are crying out for some much-needed consistency, regularity and razor-sharp focus on domestic policies and priorities for business. While the election bolstered Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government with a significant mandate to ‘get Brexit done’, we all recognise we have a massive mountain to climb. It is certainly ambitious to conclude all we need to achieve by the 31st January, but is it not better to ensure we “get it right for business” – I will leave that to the “professionals” and our Scottish parliamentarians who are returning to Westminster this week to ensure that Scottish business interests are at the forefront of all discussions and decisions. Compromise and leadership will be key attributes in achieving success.
As we all begin to plan our 2020+ business strategies and plans around what is still a period of massive uncertainty, we must create and grasp as many opportunities as possible. The new broom at the UK Government has promised “spreading opportunity to every corner of our country and levelling the playing field” – great! We have also been promised a rebalancing and increase from UK Government departments to support Scottish Business – great! Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network are ready to embrace and work to develop this across every part of Scotland.
Turning our attention to the work of the Scottish Government at Holyrood. Our First Minister has announced SG will proceed towards initiating the process of conducting a second Independence Referendum. SCC is an apolitical membership network, therefore, will await with great interest what this means and how it will support Scottish business to enable us to grow our economy, jobs and wealth.
Let’s be clear to all our political representatives at Holyrood – businesses cannot continue to absorb further additional costs to doing business here. In reviewing a number of draft policies, some of which are under “consultation”, however if adopted, have the potential to impact on our employment market, jobs, productivity and growth. Many of which will also impact on many of the Scottish Governments own strategic economic plans. We have a unique opportunity in Scotland working with Government and Business together, but there needs to be a reality check on the economic impacts of many of the policies which are currently being drafted, considered and worse still – potentially adopted.
2020 must be the year when both governments refocus and balance their energy, expertise and support to domestic priorities for the long-term. Significant aspects of our competitive edge are in their hands. They must put jobs and business high on their list of policy and operational priorities, committing to a major clamp down on the rising cost of doing business.
As always – I will finish on an optimistic note – we have the leadership, we have the talent, and we have the ambition to achieve. Businesses are very resilient, agile and we move fast. Let’s all gear up to support one another on what is going to be a journey of bumps, but we are also innovators and can build our own path.