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Sectors join forces to shape Scotland’s future after COP26

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney: With challenge comes the opportunity to re-shape our economy, making it more resilient, sustainable and prosperous.


Two hundred business, government and public sector leaders gathered at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 18 November for a two-day forum to consider Scotland’s economic and social future in the wake of COP26.

SCDI’s flagship conference is unique in Scotland in bringing together the private, public and social economy sectors together on a level platform to discuss policy priorities, identify challenges and brainstorm solutions to promote Scotland’s future success. This year’s event is SCDI’s 50th Forum.

The Forum presented an impressive speaker line-up including Dame Sharon White DBE, Chair, John Lewis Partnership; Amanda Young, Global Head of Responsible Investment, abrdn; new Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive Adrian Gillespie; and Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Edinburgh. Ministers from both the UK and Scottish governments spoke.

Scottish Government Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP, opened the first day of the Forum, saying:

 “I am delighted to be here to open the 50th SCDI annual forum in what is their 90th year as an organisation. I would like to thank SCDI and all the businesses who have made huge changes and sacrifices to protect public health, their teams and customers. These are challenging times – but with challenge comes the opportunity to re-shape our economy, making it more resilient, sustainable and prosperous. I look forward to engaging with SCDI on how we deliver economic recovery.”

 UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord, opened the conference’s second day, saying: 

“It’s an honour to speak at the 50th SCDI conference this week, to assert our commitment to building back stronger and greener from this pandemic. We’re investing in communities through our levelling up funds and we are helping businesses create new and highly-skilled jobs across a number of sectors – there is so much opportunity to create a prosperous future. It’s especially appropriate for me to be speaking during the UK Government’s inaugural International Trade Week and just days after we announced our refreshed export strategy to expand our global ambitions further.

 “Exports support 6.5 million British jobs and our new strategy will help Scottish businesses connect to key international networks as well as offer bespoke training and tools. It’s fantastic news for Scottish businesses from every sector, from our world-famous food and drink, to our innovative digital sector and our thriving financial services industry.”

 As work starts on a new Scottish Innovation Strategy, Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, joined the session on innovation.

Purpose-led business was a major focus of this year’s Forum following COP26. and Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work at the Scottish Government, launched the Business Purpose Commission for Scotland at the conference.

Sara Thiam, chief executive of SCDI, said:

“The SCDI Forum is a ‘go to’ event if you want this small country of ours on the edge of Europe to continue to play a role in the global economy. It celebrates Scotland’s assets – our world class universities, our fantastic built and natural environment, our innovations, our unique places but also holds a mirror up to ourselves, recognising where we need to learn and evolve to stay relevant.”

Dr Linda Yueh, Economist, Broadcaster and Author, joined the Forum Dinner as keynote speaker. A Fellow in Economics at Oxford University and Adjunct Professor of Economics at London Business School, her latest book, The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today, was selected as a Times Best Business Book of the Year. She has presented several BBC TV series and is currently an adviser to the UK Board of Trade.

The Forum builds on SCDI’s 10-year strategy for the Scottish economy, Making A Good Living: A 2030 Blueprint for Scotland, published earlier this year.

The first SCDI International Forum took place in Aviemore in November 1970 with the theme of “The influence of Centralisation on the future”.


Thank you to our Forum 2021 Partners