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FM 'must avoid jobs crisis'

CBI bosses call for speeding up of recovery plan

Carolyn Fairbairn

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn: a need for action (pic: Terry Murden)

CBI leaders are today warning the Scottish government that it must not let the health crisis delay plans to head off a potential economic catastrophe.

They are urging First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to speed up investment in the green agenda, give the go-ahead to shovel-ready projects, and further reform business rates as part of an urgently-needed recovery plan.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general, and Tracy Black, its Scotland director, have co-authored a letter to Bute House calling for a renewed focus on job creation, training the young and re-skilling redundant workers.

They say: “redundancies will rise fast over the autumn as support schemes, especially the JRS, wind down” and list a range of activities demanding immediate action.

Their letter coincides with the publication today of recommendations from the government-commissioned economic advisory group chaired by former banker Benny Higgins.

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Dame Carloyn and Ms Black say businesses recognise the need to prioritise health and adapt to new ways of working following the Covid-19 crisis.

“But that must not delay urgently implementing an ambitious recovery plan that responds to the scale of the economic challenge Scotland faces,” they say. 

“As people begin returning to work safely, two priorities stand out: jobs and investment. Unemployment is the biggest threat to livelihoods and must not be allowed to scar communities across the country.

“Meanwhile, business investment must bounce back fast to create the jobs of the future and address Scotland’s poor productivity performance.”

Specific proposals include retrofitting all homes with a high standard of energy efficiency and expanding and quickening the deployment of electric vehicle charging networks through fast-track planning and funding. 

The government is advised to introduce a time-limited scrappage scheme to incentivise the take up of electric vehicles and extend business rates relief to mid-sized businesses in all sectors to reduce fixed costs.

They suggest introducing a temporary wage subsidy to help retain apprenticeships, and refocusing further and higher education provision to place greater emphasis on “short, sharp, industry-led courses” that will support redundant workers.

Government should provide a more extensive system of grants for SMEs to weather the crisis, helping businesses to press ahead with paused innovation projects.

Taken together, this plan will support the recovery in the short-term


Shovel-ready construction projects, including housebuilding, renewables infrastructure, local road and rail networks should be accelerated. 

There is also a need to speed up the pace of digital transformation of user-friendly public services directed at businesses, and continued long-term reform of business rates. 

Government is urged to capitalise on the recent increase in appetite for technology.  

They say the Scottish National Investment Bank needs to support dynamic scale-ups, enabling them to their full potential in Scotland. “SNIB should be flexible and agile in its operation,” they say.

The letter states that “taken together, this plan will support the recovery in the short-term and lay the foundations for a more competitive and sustainable future for the Scottish economy.”

Ms Black said: “This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented response to get the economy back on track. The Scottish economy was already struggling before Covid-19 hit, and now every single bit of growth matters for people’s jobs and livelihoods.”

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