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28 March 2023 |

Letter to a Leader

‘It’s the economy, stupid’ is the most remembered phrase from the campaign which won Bill Clinton the US Presidency.

What’s generally forgotten is that it followed ‘Change vs. more of the same’. Both should be front of mind for the new First Minister of Scotland as they start to introduce their economic policy this week.

Taking economic growth seriously and engaging with business and wider society to deliver opportunities for clean growth should be the main priority for their first 100 days. But that does not mean more of the kind of growth which damages our environment and leaves people behind.

SCDI makes a difference to the challenges and seizes the opportunities facing Scotland’s economy, bringing people together across government, business and civil society to effect change.

Our members aren’t short of ideas about what can be done.

Our Business Purpose Commission found that businesses, who make an effort to deliver social and environmental outcomes do better in the longer term. Businesses who look to benefit their customers, employees, suppliers and the communities they work in as well as their shareholders actually deliver higher long term returns than purely profit-driven rivals. With benefits including increased innovation, resilience and employees and customers motivated by a focus on fair work, such businesses are forecast to grow faster over the next 15 years.

What these businesses have in common is a strong purpose. We believe that Scotland can achieve a transformation in its economy by harnessing the power of businesses which find profitable solutions to the problems of people and planet through a partnership between government, businesses and civic stakeholders.

But our vision should not be limited to Scotland because the ambitions of our purpose-driven businesses certainly are not.

In identifying what Scotland should be known for in the global economy, SCDI members pointed to the opportunity for Scotland to be a living lab for innovations at home and global hub for purpose-led businesses which solve the problems of people and planet profitably. We need to enable businesses to make that a reality by equipping them with the know-how and reducing barriers to free, fair, climate friendly and digital trade across the world.

With skills a major concern for employers and many people affected not only by squeezes on their livelihoods and changes in their jobs due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to focus more on learning throughout life. Improving productivity by investing in the management and leadership skills of SMEs and transforming the education and training landscape for Scotland’s workers as we adapt to AI & digital transformation and manage the transition to net zero and a nature rich future is essential.

The final pillar of our strategy for inclusive and sustainable economic growth – and in some ways the most important – must be investing in building the prosperity of Scotland’s places as healthy places to live and work. That means harnessing their capabilities through connecting them through broadband and 5G rollout and building more homes to unlock the regional economic opportunities.

SCDI looks forward to working constructively with the new First Minister and all Ministers to help shape their plans for a prosperous Scotland.