Tories scorn plan for hub to raise economic growth as ‘setting up a website’

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Scottish Government plans to create a hub to boost growth across the country have been criticised by the Conservatives, who claim the project amounts to “basically setting up a website”.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown announced the creation of the Centre for Regional Inclusive Growth in November, telling a Holyrood committee it would “help to support our policy initiatives on regional partnerships, city deals and city region deals”.

It would also “provide a platform” to share local and national data analysis with partners, he said.

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart, his party’s economy spokesman, later questioned the minister on when the centre would be operational, where it would be based, and how many staff it would employ.

In a written answer, Mr Brown responded: “It is anticipated that the centre will support regional partnerships and city and region deals and will primarily be a ‘virtual hub’, led by Scottish Government and partners. It will draw on existing capacity and expertise.”

The Scottish Conservatives have criticised the move, saying it shows the Scottish Government is not doing enough for the business community.

Ministers said the plan is modern and forward-looking, with the final structure of the centre still being worked out.

Mr Lockhart said: “When announcing this scheme, anyone listening would have thought the plan was to create a proper base, get some investment in and hire specialist staff.

“Instead, the Scottish Government is basically setting up a website, and that’s it.

“It’s no wonder the business community doesn’t feel it can count on the SNP to provide the help and support it so badly needs at the moment.

“This would have been a great opportunity to provide something tangible that would have helped regional growth right across the country.

“Instead, the nationalists have put their head together and come up with nothing but a website.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Centre for Regional Inclusive Growth is a modern, forward-looking platform.

“It is just one measure we are taking to ensure all of Scotland’s communities can prosper. We have already committed over £1 billion to City Region deals and we are focused on improving the economic prospects of every region in Scotland.

“The ultimate structure of the new centre is being finalised, and it is being designed to continually evolve in order to support regional inclusive growth”.