Scottish businesses have called for a “relationship reset” with politicians.
Ahead of the Holyrood election in May, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) has published a “Rally for growth action plan” stressing the importance of business to the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The business group is calling for a “growth act” to be passed by the Scottish Parliament within 100 days of the election, addressing issues such as reducing upfront business costs, increasing international trade, training and reskilling the workforce, digital and infrastructure investment, and increased investment in renewable energies.
The document has been issued to all prospective parliamentarians and states that the election provides an opportunity to “reset the relationship between business and government”, claiming commerce has “played second-fiddle in Scotland’s political culture.”
The SCC wants to see the creation of a “joint economic partnership” formed of ministers, the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisers and the heads of Scottish business groups in order to push enterprise and business growth policies and focus on job creation.
It also recommends fast-tracking infrastructure investment to support both immediate and longer-term economic recovery.
Dr Liz Cameron, director and chief executive of the SCC, said: “Our wide-ranging Rally for growth action plan is the manifesto of the business community to forge a new, closer, more effective alliance between Scottish businesses and the next Scottish Parliament.
“We hope our plan will provide a comprehensive yet practical set of ideas that will be fundamental to ensuring that our economy bounces back and is ready to grasp new trading opportunities here and abroad.
“The pace of government action must be accelerated considerably.
“The Scottish people need commerce and government to align if we are to tackle the big challenges ahead.
“In this most critical moment, it is vital that Scottish ministers and business leaders are talking the same language and recognising the need to balance long-term strategies for growth alongside concrete action in the here and now, to ensure we retain as many businesses as possible while creating new jobs.”
Commenting on the SCC’s proposals, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Throughout the pandemic businesses have been an afterthought for the SNP who failed to involve them in vital decisions.
“The Scottish Conservatives would establish a business recovery council to guarantee they would always be fully consulted.
“Many of the proposals from the Chambers of Commerce are ones we are fully supportive of. We are committed to delivering full-fibre broadband for all by 2027 and delivering £500 retrain to rebuild grants.
“While we are looking towards the end of the health crisis, we are facing a looming economic crisis in our communities.
“Only the Scottish Conservatives can stop an SNP majority, their push for an IndyRef2 and ensure we have a Parliament that is fully focused on supporting businesses and rebuilding Scotland.”
SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “Just as responding to Covid-19 has been a collective effort, our economic recovery from the pandemic must also be a national endeavor which empowers everybody to play their part.
“The coronavirus crisis has been extremely difficult for businesses across the country, that is why the SNP Government brought forward crucial measures to support businesses during this challenging period and to help them rebuild from the pandemic.
“Over the last year, we have worked closely with a range of businesses and stakeholders to put in place £3bn of lifeline financial support, and reach as many groups who were excluded from UK government financial support as possible – including the newly self-employed, hairdressers, driving instructors, soft play centres and brewers.
“Scotland’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic lies at the heart of the SNP’s ambition for government, and we remain committed to an ambitious programme of investment to inject confidence in our economy, create jobs and deliver infrastructure that works for households and businesses across the country.
“However, Scotland does not currently have all the economic powers needed for the fair, sustainable recovery that is needed.
“That is why the issue at this election is who we trust to secure a strong economic recovery for Scotland – people in Scotland or Boris Johnson? Only both votes SNP on May 6th can put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.”