North-east business leaders have called on the next Scottish Government to put energy transition and connectivity at the heart of its plans to rebuild the region’s economy.
Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) has revealed its Scottish Elections Priorities publication ahead of next month’s vote.
The document, which was developed following consultation with members of the chamber, includes specific requests for investment in energy transition and physical and digital connectivity, while it also calls for a focus on keeping skilled workers in the north-east.
Copies of the organisation’s manifesto have been distributed to all candidates standing in the north-east.
AGCC policy manager Shane Taylor said: “Scotland goes to the polls on May 6 in one of the most important elections of our lifetimes.
“As a result of Covid-19 and the restrictions put in place to protect public health, our nation’s economy is at a crossroads.
“We have already lost many businesses and livelihoods with many more still at risk. The north-east has seen a disproportionate hit to employment, with the region accounting for one-third of redundancies under consultation via the Scottish Government’s PACE programme.
“Against this backdrop, decisions made in the coming months by our newly elected parliament will determine how we bounce back from this potentially crippling hit to our way of life and rebuild our economy quickly and sustainably.”
The Chamber, which represents more than 1,000 businesses across the north-east, has identified six key areas it says need to be addressed in order to kick-start the economy.
Bosses have called for increased partnership working between the private and third sectors, and want a devolved tax policy to “encourage investment and entrepreneurship”.
They have urged leaders to commit to delivering investment in energy transition to help meet net-zero ambitions, and a strengthening of connectivity to “safeguard our economic resilience”.
The Chamber also wants the next government to focus on “upskilling and reskilling opportunities for green jobs”, and action plans to boost town centres.
The organisation plans to hold a hustings event on April 29 where candidates from the main political parties will have the opportunity to discuss their plans for the region in front of business leaders.
“The Chamber has engaged with and supported thousands of businesses in the north-east during the pandemic,” Mr Taylor added.
“We are the voice of our business community and are committed to ensuring our region’s priorities are heard and acted on in the corridors of power.
“This manifesto summarises what our members and stakeholders have been telling us and the key priority areas we need to see action from the next Scottish Parliament on to give the north-east the best chance of playing a key role in our national recovery.
“Despite the acute challenges brought about by Covid-19, our region has concrete ambitions to lead the UK’s energy transition and build on our fantastic talent and skills base by diversifying further into areas like sustainable tourism and food and drink production.
“The north-east business community stands ready to work with the next Scottish Government, and the wider Parliament, to make those ambitions a reality.”