The Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcomes the thrust of the Scottish Government’s 2017-18 Programme for Government, and applauds its ambition “to be the inventor and the producer, not just a consumer, of the innovations that will shape the lives of our children and grandchildren.”
With the Scottish economy still fragile, the Chambers wholeheartedly concur with the First Minister’s statement to the Scottish Parliament on the need for bold measures to help our industries adapt to the future and to adopt emerging data and digital technology to make our economy more competitive, productive, innovative, fair and profitable.
We look forward to seeing the detail to support these announcements, particularly those with no timescales attached, and further clarity on key announcements including the Scottish National Investment Bank and how it will operate in reality.
Nevertheless, the Scottish Government can rely on the support of the Scottish Chambers Network in its plans to increase government investment in business R&D by 70% to generating an estimated £300M of additional R&D spending over the next three years.
Likewise, we support the investment of £9m in a new lightweight manufacturing centre in Renfrewshire to help companies develop global competitive advantage in the manufacturing of lightweight, environmentally friendly materials.
The Scottish Government has wisely recognised that scaling-up businesses requires support as well as starting them, and we look forward to working with them on the new “Unlocking Ambition” challenge, to provide intensive support for up to 40 of the most talented entrepreneurs.
On the enterprise and skills agenda, we welcome the new Strategic Board, led by Nora Senior, past-President of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, and look forward to working with the Board to improve the strategic alignment of the public and private sectors.
On business rates, Scottish Chambers of Commerce has already made clear that the requirement to deliver “revenue neutrality” has limited the benefits of the Barclay Review’s reforms, and we note the critical role the Scottish Government has in matching the business momentum for change.
Finally on the circular economy, we would like to see more consultation with business on the proposals to design and introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, to ensure that the scheme can be effective in achieving its aims without imposing extra costs on businesses and consumers. We would hope that no scheme will be implemented without the full buy-in of retailers.