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2 May 2023 |

Warm reception for SCDI – London Visit 2023

The breadth of SCDI’s membership and constructive approach of our members has always ensured we are a trusted voice for senior Westminster Politicians and business leaders.

Our recent visit helped us reconnect with SCDI members across sectors. This included members with a strong Scottish operation keen to ensure their London office has greater awareness of developments in Scotland as well as London-based members and companies that operate in Scotland and have an interest in political and economic developments in Scotland.

A key feature of the visit was the willingness to engage with and learn from SCDI members making a difference to Scotland’s economy. There was a strong alignment between SCDI priorities and government and opposition MPs and business leaders on a number of critical issues including productivity and the specific challenges facing remote and rural parts of Scotland, which were fresh in our minds having come straight from an excellent day with members in the Outer Hebrides the week before.

On Monday, we explored joint working with Business in the Community Chief Executive, Mary Macleod before finding out more about the fantastic co-working and event space available to Scottish organisations in Scotland House London. Scotland’s ‘man in London’, John Webster was kind enough to take the time to meet to discuss opportunities for collaboration and creating a wellbeing economy.

Day one rounded off with pressing the case for cross-border rail and energy infrastructure investment with National Infrastructure Commission CEO James Heath. Every day is a school day and a chance encounter with Professor of Applied Earth Observation, School of Geosciences at University of Edinburgh, Iain Woodhouse, who’d been giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee in a session focused on maritime issues and space-based capabilities earlier that day afforded me the chance to learn about navigation rights and the offshore/subsea infrastructure that have an impact on defence and security in the Arctic and High North as part of the Committee’s inquiry into Defence in Scotland: The North Atlantic and the High North. Iain brought me up to speed on the role space-based capabilities play in polar observation and surveillance, and the opportunities this presents for Scotland and its space sector as well as his incredible side-gig as Knowledge and Outreach Lead for innovative Scottish business Earthblox.

Tuesday morning found me in Dover House to congratulate Lord Offord on his new appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Business and Trade before raising whisky member concerns re the absence of energy cost support and pressing on clarification on delivery of the Scottish CCUS Cluster whilst Clare and Gareth talked growth and productivity with senior officials in the Department for Business and Trade.

Scotland Office Director, Lynn McDonald OBE shared fascinating insights from her long and distinguished civil service career across multiple government departments before we headed to Portcullis House to meet with the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Pete Wishart. It was heartening to see a hard-working MP getting on with the job scrutinising critical issues impacting on Scotland in areas including space, security, international trade and rural communities and working across parties to make a difference.

Then it was off to join China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)’s Chris Morritt for an update on their priorities in the Institution of Civil Engineers on One Great George (a home for home for Scots since there is a serious roster of famous Scottish Engineers here including their first President Sir Thomas Telford) before heading to Dover House for the evening.

Following an introduction by our Host for the evening Lord Offord, Chair of Scotland’s Development Bank (The Scottish National Investment Bank), Willie Watt addressed a 50-strong audience sharing how the bank’s missions (just transition, place and innovation) will help develop a fairer, more sustainable economy. Members were struck at the extent to which the Bank’s aspirations align with those of SCDI.

Only by coming together can government, industry and civil society deliver economic, social and environmental impact.

Looking beyond political administrations and fostering positive relationships across Scotland and the UK ‘to build a productive, entrepreneurial economy in which companies can grow and prosper’. President Shonaig MacPherson led a lively post-dinner Q&A before rounding off the evening.

Google’s Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy, John Park met with our policy team the next morning whilst I headed back to Dover House to catch up with the Secretary of State’s for Scotland’s special advisor, Geoff Mawdsley before we headed back to Portcullis House where we were warmly received by Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy, Jonathon Reynolds MP who looks forward to meeting members at June’s Forum.

Our last stop was the Treasury to meet with officials from several government departments to share the findings of our Business Purpose Commission and discuss issues social investment tax, productivity and our Blueprint priorities.

As ever our SCDI members with their rich insights and thoughtful questions made it a valuable and rewarding few days. Watch this space for more London networking events hopefully with a much shorter gap between engagements.

Contact Sara if you’d like your organisation to join a grouping of London-based members.