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Exclusive: Former SE boss on attack

Perry claims Dugdale’s economic agency plan ‘hair-brained’

Jack Perry 1Former Scottish Enterprise chief executive Jack Perry has described Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s plans to shake-up the agency as “hair-brained”.

Ms Dugdale wants to reunite the economic development body with training quango Skills Development Scotland.

But Mr Perry who left Scottish Enterprise in 2009 after five years at the helm, said bringing the two back under the same roof was a backward step and that no one in business is calling for such a move.

“Why is this being talked about? Where is the evidence that employers want this?” he told Daily Business.

“She is clutching at something without understanding the background or how it works. There was a disconnect when the two were together and it has worked much better now that they are separate bodies.”

Ms Dugdale wants to replace the two agencies with a new Skills Scotland in partnership with the trade unions.

But Mr Perry said that separation of SE and SDS was seen as the right move politically as well as economically. Skills Development Scotland dealt with a number education and social matters, such as adult literacy, healthy eating and and drug addiction.

“These are important issues, but an economic development agency has to be more focused. It can’t be distracted to a point where everyone becomes a customer of Scottish Enterprise.

“It was a nightmare at the time and brought the agency a lot of criticism when things went wrong,  Since they have been split the agencies have worked much better. Labour wants to take us back to that situation. It’s a hair-brained idea.”

The Labour leader will reveal her plans to reshape economic development in a key speech to trade unionists in Dundee which is seen as a key attempt at re-engaging with “lost” Labour supporters.

The party says a Work and Trade Union bill will counter Westminster legislation clamping down on trade union rights.

She said Labour’s bill will be the “antithesis of the negative Tory trade union bill”.

She will say: “It will recognise the positive role of trade unions in the economy, in creating better workplaces, in increasing productivity, in building a fair economy.

“And it will establish Skills Scotland, in partnership with unions and employers and co-chaired by a nominee of the STUC. This new agency will bring together employment services and skills services, including new powers over the Work Programme that are coming to Holyrood.”

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