Scottish Engineering dinner
Davidson ‘wants to lead Scots Tories into government’
Ruth Davidson: ‘we must not forget other challenges’ (photo by Terry Murden)
Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson last night confirmed she would lead the Scottish Tories into the next election.
In the meantime she called for the Holyrood parties to use an election-free period to engage in some ‘heavy intellectual lifting’ on non-Brexit issues.
Ms Davidson, addressing the Scottish Engineering annual dinner, joked that Scottish politics was in an “unusual place”. After a series of elections and referendums, there will not be another for three years, she said.
“We can use that time to do some of the heavy intellectual lifting that has been absent these past few years,” she said, including a focus on matters beyond the Brexit debate.
“I am confident there will be a deal…we are not there yet. I understand that. My biggest frustration with Brexit is that by focusing all our energies on that we forget about all the other challenges coming our way.”
Among them was the skills issue and encouraging more girls to take up an engineering career.
“To be fair to the Scottish government there are many institutions out there. They are well-intentioned, but this is not just a numbers issue. It is a cultural issue. There are still people who think engineers have to get their hands dirty.
“Engineers create solutions. STEM jobs are the jobs of the future. The opportunities are vast, but we need to indicate it better and the best way to attract young people is to talk it up.
“There is so much the sector is getting is getting right. Let’s not hold back.”
Ms Davidson said there was also a need for more clarity around the government’s range of assistance for businesses.
On the slow economic growth rate, she said: “Regardless of your politics, that is worrying.”
She made clear her intention to lead the Scottish Conservatives into the next election with the aim of becoming the governing party.
“I am determined that Scottish Conservatives will be challenging for government,” she said. Her comments follow her recent confirmation that she had no designs on leading the UK party or becoming Prime Minister.
Paul Sheerin: optimist (photo by Terry Murden)
The dinner was the first addressed by new chief chief executive Paul Sheerin who said he had visited more than 30 companies since succeeding Bryan Buchan and was impressed with the attitude they showed towards being the best.
“Not one has failed to outline their efficiency programme. None said they don’t do continuous improvement,” he said.
“I am a hopeless and persistent optimist.”
RWG (Repair & Overhauls) of Dyce received Scottish Engineering’s top honour as the manufacturing company that has done most to promote the industry in the past year.
Separately, Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told a Glasgow audience that businesses wanted fewer speeches and less posturing on Brexit and more action on other issues.
“Politicians are using Brexit to seek political advantage,” he said at a meeting of Glasgow Talks, organised by the city’s Chamber. “There is general dismay among businesses towards all this.
Adam Marshall: ‘no more set-piece speeches’ (photo by Terry Murden)
“I could talk about Brexit all the time but I want to focus on the fundamentals.”
Referring to the need to reduce tax burdens and for investment in infrastructure – road repairs, the roll-out of broadband – and in skills, he said “the deal won’t matter if we don’t have the right conditions.”
He said: “We are campaigning hard on the fundamentals. We don’t want any more set-piece speeches n Brexit. We have had Florence and the Mansion House…we want to know how government is tackling the basics.”
Daily Business will publish an interview with Paul Sheerin this weekend