Scottish economy must be transformed from fragile to agile

“A network of TechHubs should be developed to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs and creatives with professional support in flexible, affordable and high-tech spaces in cities, towns and smaller communities – with opportunities for revitalising private and public sector property assets as economic changes and financial pressures drive ‘capacity exit’ an immediate priority for policy and partnership support,” – Scottish Council for Development & Industry (SCDI) 

Productivity is the key challenge for the Scottish economy and needs to be tackled head-on if it’s to make progress during what is shaping up to be a decade of disruptive global changes.
That’s the message from the Scottish Council for Development & Industry (SCDI), which launched a new policy report entitled ‘From Fragile to Agile: A Blueprint for Growth & Prosperity’ yesterday  (Monday, December 7).
Its new report makes recommendations on how Scotland can become a high-performance, agile economy and focuses on the three main areas of underperformance: productivity, innovation and internationalisation.
Its recommendations include:
  • A Scottish Productivity Commission modelled on those of Australia and New Zealand, should provide independent research, advice and performance monitoring to government and all sectors, under the direction of the Council of Economic Advisers.
  • A network of TechHubs should be developed to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs and creatives with professional support in flexible, affordable and high-tech spaces in cities, towns and smaller communities – with opportunities for revitalising private and public sector property assets as economic changes and financial pressures drive “capacity exit” an immediate priority for policy and partnership support.
  • A genuine partnership on trade and investment activity to light up and capitalise on business-sectoral, civic and educational resources and relationships, maintain and improve our relationships in the EU and develop a Scottish ‘Commonwealth Plan’.
  • An independent Scottish Infrastructure Commission to recommend long-term priorities which develop the planned investment programme from catch-up to transformation of Scotland’s competitiveness, and integrates national and city region pipelines with a focus on smart and low carbon, and new legislation to fast-track delivery
Digitisation is a particularly high priority and SCDI recommends that the first chief digital officer for Scotland, reporting directly to the first minister, should be appointed to progress Digital Scotland discussions from infrastructure to economic growth and public service improvements.
SCDI chief executive Ross Martin said:  “The opportunities and threats before Scotland from global disruptive changes are stark and our economy must make the transformation from fragile to agile.
“Productivity is the principal driver of growth, and to succeed we must collectively tackle this head-on, including by addressing the key economic challenges of innovation and internationalisation.
“This is not an agenda on which government can deliver alone – we all must take a lead. Underpinned by infrastructure, both physical and digital, the connection of place and the skills of our people, we must meet the challenge of an emerging economy if we are to secure a prosperous future for Scotland.
“SCDI’s Blueprint 2015 presents a vision of how together we could forge and attain that future.”
While the Blueprint generally takes a long-term perspective, SCDI also recommends that a ‘First 100 Days’ mentality can establish a tempo which generates a sense of clear and shared purpose, with early actions such as:
  • Agreeing and delivering City Regions Deals for Edinburgh and South East Scotland, Aberdeen City and Shire, and Inverness and Highland, following the lead of Glasgow and the Clyde Valley, which accelerate the reversal of 100 years of centralisation within the UK.
  • Launching a review to fundamentally reform the business rates system and introducing further reforms to the planning system to make both more reflective of, and responsive to, the changing economy, and supportive of investment into local growth and jobs.
SCDI emphasises the critical need throughout for substantially better information about what is happening in the Scottish economy, particularly with the devolution of more policy levers for the economy and revenue-raising, so we can all understand and optimise the effectiveness of our efforts across these priorities going forward, with robust, real-time and high profile Scottish and city region data.
SCDI says the blueprint has been developed following extensive consultation and research across the country with key stakeholders and members from the private, public and social economy sectors.

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