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Offord heckled by McKee over UK record in Scotland

Lord Offord: ‘competition is not coming from us’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish Office minister Lord Offord was today heckled by Holyrood trade minister Ivan McKee over the UK government’s record in Scotland.

Lord Offord told a conference in Edinburgh that any suggestion that the two were in “competition” against each other “was not coming from us”.

He said Scotland was treated “equally and fairly” with the rest of the UK.

Lord Offord, who was controversially appointed by Boris Johnson, listed a programme of UK policy actions from furlough support to levelling up that had benefited Scotland.

Speaking at the SCDI Forum at the EICC, he said he was working behind the scenes to keep Scotland’s failed carbon capture project at the forefront of Treasury minds after it was put on a reserve list behind two other projects from the north of England.

He said Brexit problems were a “temporary disruption”and that the UK will “get back on track” with the EU.

The new UK Shared Prosperity Fund “at a minimum will match all the EU funds” that it replaces, he said, insisting that the UK and Scottish governments were working together to allocate funding.

But his comments were challenged from the audience by Scottish government minister Ivan McKee, who was sitting on the front row waiting his turn to speak.

He called out: “Do I get a right of reply?”

Clearly stung by Lord Offord’s claims about UK “successes” in Scotland, Mr McKee later opened his own remarks by saying he was “not going to talk about” the economic vandalism of Brexit, labour shortages, the rejection of the carbon capture and storage plan, or the UK government’s refusal to consider issues such as the living wage for a proposed freeport.

Ivan McKee: called for ‘right of reply’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Nor did he want to discuss the French drugs developer Valneva “having its legs cut from under it” when the UK government cancelled a contract for Covid vaccines that would be manufactured in Livingston.

Mr McKee spoke about the frustrations over setting up a freeport – or greenport in Scotland, adding that the Scottish greenport prospectus will be launched in the next few weeks.

Yesterday, the Scottish Conservatives called on the SNP Government “to stop creating grievance” and embrace the Levelling Up Funding package for Scotland contained in Rishi Sunak’s budget.

At the SCDI Forum Mr McKee was later challenged by David Farquhar, chief executive at vertical farming technology firm Intelligent Growth Solutions, to ensure there was enough talent emerging to fill vacancies.

Mr Farquhar said: “The hardest thing is attracting talent – we’ve gone from 25 to 150 people recently, but we should be closer to 190 or 200 people.

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“We had to go overseas to find the capital, because it doesn’t exist here.”

Mr McKee agreed that there was a need to expand the labour supply, picking up on a theme from his cabinet colleague John Swinney who addressed the conference on Thursday. Mr McKee said work was under way to build clusters of firms in various sectors which would attract skilled people.

Mr Farquhar said a lot of innovation and talent was “invisible” because there were a lack of databases in Scotland that would enable firms to find people and capital that they needed. He urged Adrian Gillespie, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, who was seated next to him, to create one.

He added that only one building could be found in Scotland to accommodate its required tower, at the former Bifab manufacturing facility, and only because it had closed down.

Purpose commission

Richard Lochhead, minister for transition, employment and fair work, launched the Business Purpose Commission for Scotland, a group of leaders from businesses, social enterprises, the voluntary sector, academia and government.

The joint initiative between the Scottish Government and Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) will aim to ensure business maximises its contribution to meeting the economic, social and environmental challenges of our time.

“The evidence confirms that businesses with a guiding purpose deliver improved performance – we are confident that increasing the number of purposeful companies will make a positive impact on Scotland’s economic prosperity, social wellbeing and environmental sustainability,” said Mr Lochhead.

Yesterday, John Lewis Partnership chairman Dame Sharon White spoke about how purpose and profit and work together, while Amanda Young from Abrdn said investors were now demanding businesses made purposeful values part of their process.

The full membership of the Business Purpose Commission for Scotland is:

  • Colin Mayer CBE, Professor of Management Studies, Saïd Business School, The University of Oxford/ Academic Lead, The Future of the Corporation Programme, The British Academy (Co-Chair)
  • Amanda Young, Global Head of Responsible Investment, abrdn (Co-Chair)
  • Professor Sara Carter OBE FRSE, Professor of Entrepreneurship & Vice-Principal and Head of College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow
  • Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive, Carnegie Trust UK
  • Sean Duffy, Chief Executive, The Wise Group
  • Douglas Farish, Head of Tax for Scotland, and Senior Partner, Edinburgh office, Deloitte
  • Patricia Findlay, Professor of Work, Employment and Organisation, University of Strathclyde
  • Crawford Gillies, Chair, Edrington
  • Alison Graham, Company Secretary, Baillie Gifford
  • Jamie Grant, Owner & Director, Glen Lyon Coffee
  • Poonam Gupta OBE, CEO, PG Paper Company Ltd
  • Dr Ifeyniwa Kanu, CEO & Founder, IntelliDigest
  • Josiah Lockhart, CEO, Firstport Group
  • David McNeill, Director of Development, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
  • Jamie Maxton, Head of External Relations (Scotland), SSE Renewables
  • Andrew Murphy, Group Operations Director, John Lewis Partnership
  • Paula Murphy, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, Wood
  • Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary, Unite the Union
  • Brie Read, Entrepreneur and Founder, Snag Tights
  • Dr Lesley Sawers OBE, Non-Executive Director, Crosswind Developments
  • Ian Walker, Global Programme Lead, Essential Surgery, Janssen
  • Scott Wilson, Executive Director – Development, Robertson Group
  • Elliot Wishlade, Director, Ove Arup & Partners Ltd
  • Stephen Boyd, Senior Economic Policy Officer, Scottish Government
  • Clare Reid, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, SCDI


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