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SCDI Forum

Businessman Trump ‘stimulating US boom’

Robert Wood Johnson

Robert Wood Johnson: ‘a growing sense of confidence’ (photo by Terry Murden)


America is creating an economic boom fuelled by President Donald Trump’s understanding of business, a conference in Edinburgh heard.

Robert Wood Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, said the economy was unrecognisable from just a few months ago.

“It just shows what you can do by changing a few things,” he said, referring to President Trump’s reforms, including tax cuts.

Noting that Mr Trump is “more forceful than we are used to”, he said: “He is a business person and he knows what incentives are needed to make people respond.”

Mr Wood Johnson, addressing the SCDI Forum, said that without the president’s changes “factories would be dead”. Instead, “millions of jobs are being created.”

He added: “The most important thing is the sense of confidence. Everyone is looking for opportunities to invest and create jobs. There is a lot more down the road. That means there are a lot of opportunities for Scotland.”

Mr Wood Johnson said Brexit was “scary” but it was “a time for optimism”.

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘inspired by start up awards’ (photo by Terry Murden)


Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, listed a package of measures being undertaken to stimulate an economy which, she admitted, was “not performing as well as we would like”.

She mentioned plans for a Scottish National Investment Bank with a particular focus on helping small firms to grow, and the new overseas hubs which were helping develop trade. A hub is due to open in Paris following others in London and Berlin.

She said that the most inspiring events she attended were awards ceremonies celebrating the achievements of start up companies.

Carbon future

Later, EDF Energy chief executive Simone Rossi, warned of the “dangers” of the UK government failing to support onshore wind developments.

“It doesn’t mean subsidy, it means certainty,” he said.

During the same session Jonny Clark, managing director of ITP Energised, added: “If government doesn’t send out the right signals the investment will go elsewhere.”

Skills

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said companies had been forced by Brexit to pay more attention to investment in their workforces.

“Many have become dependent on migrant labour. It has led to under-investment in skills,” he said.

“We are in the bottom tier of companies investing in the workforces.”

He said this, in part, was because there had been a steady flow of foreign workers, able to communicate in English.

Commenting on the pace of change, Susan Stewart, director of the Open University in Scotland, noted recent comments by Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, that 70% occupations when he came into banking just 20 years ago no longer exist.

“We need to upskill constantly,” she said.



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