The second world war is being invoked by many in this moment of national crisis. Never one to waste a crisis, the then Secretary of State for Scotland Tom Johnston, set up SCDI’s parent body, to mitigate the impact of the war and prepare for the infrastructure and industries that would shape post-war Scotland. The Scottish Council for Industry united business and industry with the Chambers of Commerce, the STUC and local and national government to work for a better Scotland. Driven by a sense of collectivism, they laid the foundations for hydro-electric power, the new towns of the 1940s, which attracted new industries to Scotland’s new industrial estates and the start of the modern tourism industry with a new Scottish Tourism Board – a key industry we must urgently help now. Nowhere was their ambition more apparent than in the creation of the NHS, on which we now rely more than ever.
Steps are being taken to keep key sectors of the Scottish economy turning such as the food and energy industries. The unprecedented interventions by the UK and Scottish Governments are an essential first step in stabilising our economy and protecting it for a future beyond the crisis but time is of the essence if jobs are to be saved and businesses kept.
Both governments must work together to accelerate the injection of this money into the Scottish economy, ensuring that support is easily accessible for all those who need it. Getting the money into the pockets of workers and employers will continue to be a priority in coming weeks. Still more needs to be done for those currently left behind because they aren’t covered by any of the provisions announced to date.
Last week’s call to businesses by both governments inviting them to consider how they can help in the production of ventilators and delivery critical supplies to NHS Scotland and other frontline services underlined the need preserve our agricultural, manufacturing and industrial capacity. Ensuring key worker status is clear, consistent and fair across Scotland is vital to this effort and local authorities and others are working hard to ensure they get this right.
Individuals are demonstrating a collective desire to overcome this crisis by volunteering to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak and businesses are repurposing where they can to support the shortfall in supply of vital equipment.
The collective approach fostered by SCDI at times of national crisis is one which our members still share. They continue to work together across sectors and regions for a better Scotland. It is this spirit that will ensure we overcome COVID-19 and create a future economy for Scotland which delivers net-zero and leaves no one behind.