Scotland faces a race against time to reassert its competitiveness as a destination for top talent and investment, a leading business group has warned.
CBI Scotland says businesses and government must work together to accelerate economic recovery amid a “fierce battle” for investment.
The Scottish budget on Thursday (December 9) marks a “pivotal moment” to cement Scotland’s economic recovery and “build the greener, fairer economy we aspire to”, the group adds.
A budget that sends a clear message that Scotland is competitive and open for business would be a real step forward on the journey to a greener, fairer economy that creates opportunities for all.”
Tracey Black, director, CBI Scotland.
In a pre-budget message in a letter to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, CBI Scotland proposed a string of “priority interventions” for the Scottish Government to consider.
CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “The emergence of the new Omicron variant is undoubtedly a cause for concern and has highlighted the importance of protecting public health while we build economic recovery.
“Firms recognise this is a difficult balance for government, and will continue to do their part by putting the safety staff and customers first as we learn to live with the virus.
“As we look to rebuild Scotland’s economy in the face of complex challenges and heightened global and domestic competition, we need to focus on key drivers of growth to ensure Scotland remains a top destination for talent and investment.”
She added: “That means creating an environment where business investment is rewarded, vital skills and infrastructure prized, and significant resources committed to areas – like the green economy – that offer the best chance for long-term success.”
CBI Scotland’s recommendations – published today – include using the business rates system to support investment in low-carbon infrastructure by de-rating all green improvements.
The business group also wants a continuation of current rates relief as the economy bounces back.
In addition, it is seeking “an early return to a level-playing field on the higher property rate by fulfilling a manifesto commitment to bring this back into line with England”.
Economy Secretary @_KateForbes has written an open letter to businesses about the Business Principles Agreement, which was developed with business organisations.
It outlines how we can work together to drive economic recovery and transformation.
— Scottish Government Finance and Economy (@scotgoveconomy) December 3, 2021
Calling for action to “radically scale up” the National Transition Training Fund, CBI Scotland says resources should be targeted towards high-growth sectors, and also those facing the most severe labour and skills shortages.
The business group wants to see the Individual Training Account scheme “significantly” expanded to encourage lifelong learning.
And it is urging Holyrood to support the development of short, sharp, industry-led college and university courses that “deliver flexibility as we upskill and retrain the workforce”.
Infrastructure proposals include scaling up the roll-out of electric vehicle charging points.
Also, the introduction of incentives to boost demand for low emissions vehicles as new petrol and diesel cars are phased out.
Holyrood is being urged to support the digitisation of travel across all modes of public transport – through ticketless travel, smart payment options and multi-modal fare options – and “unleash investor confidence to seize the moment”.
CBI Scotland is also seeking a clear, joined-up “invest in Scotland” pitch that “resonates with investors and puts Scotland ahead of international and domestic competitors”.
Finally, it wants to see support clusters developed to build on “world-beating expertise”, for example, in fossil fuel transition and renewable energy generation.
But government alone cannot deliver Scotland’s economic recovery, Ms Black said.
We’ve had plenty of discussion and debate – now is the time for delivery.”
She added: “We need private enterprise, whether from home or abroad, to step up with the ingenuity, innovation and investment needed to get the economy motoring again.
“A budget that sends a clear message that Scotland is competitive and open for business would be a real step forward on the journey to a greener, fairer economy that creates opportunities for all.
“We’ve had plenty of discussion and debate – now is the time for delivery.”