Letter to minister

Forbes ‘has mountain to climb’ to overturn failure

Kate Forbes at Barclays
Kate Forbes addressing a business audience in Glasgow (pic: Terry Murden)

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes has been told she has a “mountain to climb’ if is to turn around the SNP’s record of “failure and decline”.

Her Labour rival Daniel Johnson says the SNP government could deliver economic growth through skills, regional economic development and planning.

He has written to Ms Forbes highlighting data showing pay increases and employment continue to lag behind the UK average.

“For 17 years the SNP has squandered Scotland’s economic potential and left us all poorer,” says Mr Johnson.

“The Tories have caused economic turmoil across the UK, but here in Scotland the SNP has made a bad picture worse.

“Kate Forbes has a mountain to climb if she is to turn around this record of failure and decline.

“From modernising skills to promoting regional economic development to reforming planning, there is action we can and must take right now.”

He says recent forecasts by EY show that the Scottish economy is predicted to grow more slowly than every other nation and region across the UK makes action all the more pressing.

He calls for Ms Forbes to deliver a comprehensive response to the Withers review on skills, a timetable for reform if this is your intention, and steps for how she plans to combat skills shortages in key sectors across the economy.

Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson: action must be taken now

On regional economic development he says Scotland’s regions are “underpowered and under delivering” and notes that Scotland’s performance “now lags many metro authorities which have fewer economic powers”, echoing recent analysis by Daily Business.

“We need a new approach to regional economic development which empowers Scottish regions to take quicker, more focused and more strategic decisions.”

He adds: “Our councils are not incentivised to pursue economic growth through business rates or council tax.’

He says Scotland “slow planning system is holding back much needed housing development and impeding our transition to renewables.”

Mr Johnson says capacity must be increased to ensure the planning system is an enabler of growth not a barrier to it.  

On Friday Ms Forbes told a business audience that the government’s “priority and opportunity” is to unlock the potential of Scotland natural resources and produce.

She was speaking alongside First Minister John Swinney who announced that he wanted more action than strategy documents in order to speed up decision making in areas such as planning.

He said government must have a “can-do attitude” towards removing obstacles and that planning and consultation “must be focused on making things happen.”

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