Call to re-form AGER
Kilgour calls for ‘joined up’ action to tackle Covid
Robert Kilgour: ‘we need new mechanisms’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Anti-independence campaigner Scottish Business UK (SBUK) wants Benny Higgins’ economic advisory group to be reformed to allow for more business input into dealing with the pandemic.
SBUK, led by care sector businessman Robert Kilgour, this time wants direct input from the Scotland Office, Treasury and the business community as “integral elements” of Scotland’s new three-tiered lockdown framework.
It insists that this is the only way to achieve the effective joined-up approach to economic support as the country grapples with the current phase of the pandemic.
It argues that the Action Group on Economic Recovery (AGER), which was suspended in the summer and never replaced, should be re-formed with input from senior business leaders to inform decision-making relating to the economic impact of industry lock-downs and ensure that guidance and support packages are tailored to the needs of affected sectors.
The new AGER should also create a direct point of liaison between the Scottish Government and the Scotland Office, to ensure that the HM Treasury is closely briefed at all times on the evolving business support needs of Scottish companies and their employees.
AGER was chaired by former banker Benny Higgins and produced a report on how to rebuild the economy post-pandemic. But it was heavily criticised for lacking recommendations for direct action and failing to embrace the SME sector.
SBUK’s chief executive Struan Stevenson said: “It is telling that since the first AGER published its plan in June, there has been no standing advisory group monitoring their delivery and neither has there been consistent, independent business advice to government on the economic impact of industry lockdowns.
“The creation of the new three-tiered lockdown framework is an opportunity to set this right so that the needs of businesses, and their speedy recovery, are fully considered in the months ahead.
“At the same time, business owners know that it’s the strength of HM Treasury support that counts the most in helping companies survive the winter and support continued employment.
“That’s why we need the Scottish Government to work more closely with the Scotland Office in shaping the new AGER, so that communication of Scotland’s business needs to the Chancellor’s team is quickly improved.”
The call comes as SBUK publishes The Union beyond Covid-19: A strengthened case for business resurgence, a newly updated prospectus for reforming devolution following the pandemic in which SBUK calls on the Scottish Government and UK Government to work more closely than ever on a jobs-based economic recovery.
Mr Kilgour, founder and chairman of SBUK added: “As our updated report shows clearly, without the pooling and sharing of resources afforded by Scotland’s place in the UK, the effects of the coronavirus on business would have gone from bad to worse.
“The Scottish Government needs to accept that, and create new mechanisms to work seamlessly with the Scotland Office and the Treasury to ensure that the future business support, employee retention and tax mechanisms, have the buy-in and understanding of Scottish businesses.
“That means accepting advice and input direct from business and it also closer liaison with the UK Government, both in planning to mitigate the impact of Covid on businesses, but also in paving the way for economic recovery.”