DFM meetings

Forbes pledges to ease cost burdens on business

Kate Forbes
Kate Forbes is pledging to help business with costs and regulation (pic: Terry Murden)

Kate Forbes, Scotland’s new Deputy First Minister, has indicated a willingness to meet business demands for less regulation and more investment in infrastructure and housing as the keys to boosting economic activity.

In meetings with a number of organisations on Thursday she said she was keen to remove barriers in order to ease pressure on companies and encourage confidence among investors.

Ms Forbes took on the economy brief alongside her duties as DFM in John Swinney’s first Cabinet.

The new First Minister has said he wants to ensure policies across government are supportive of economic growth that will provide the revenue to help eradicate child poverty.

Ms Forbes will oversee the New Deal for Business, a group of sector leaders brought together by former First Minister Humza Yousaf to reset strained government relations with business.

There has been criticism that Mr Yousaf’s ministers failed to heed demands and warnings from business leaders, making the New Deal group ineffective.

Businesses were concerned that the Green party exercised too much influence over the SNP, forcing the government into costly and unworkable programmes.

They will be hoping that the new government will respond to calls for moderation in tax and environmental policies or risk undermining Scotland’s competitiveness.

Mr Swinney is unlikely to roll back too far on tax policy as he supports what his government insists is a progressive tax regime whereby the better off pay more to help the disadvantaged.

However, the initial responses from business groups suggest that his approach will be to listen and ensure nothing is done to damage economic prospects and business viability. 

Business groups and union representatives used the meeting on Thursday to call for more support on skills and employability and keep a lid on costs and regulations.

During her time as Finance Secretary Ms Forbes established a strong rapport with the technology sector and hired former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan as chief entrepreneurial adviser. He wrote a paper setting out a strategy which is now being rolled out.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, welcomed Ms Forbes’ initiative to meet key stakeholders and said it underlined “our shared commitment to economic growth”.

Marc Strathie, senior policy adviser for devolved nations at IoD Scotland, said: “It was a very positive start from the new Deputy FM to actively engage with the IoD and other organisations on her first day.

“The message from ourselves and the Deputy FM was focused around action and delivery. We highlighted the findings from our State of the Nation report and also the importance of making sure the Scottish economy works for everyone across our rural and urban regions.”

Sandy Begbie, chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise, added: “The first minister’s focus on putting economic growth at the heart of his agenda, coupled with the deputy first minister’s desire to engage with business so swiftly, is to be welcomed.

“This is a good signal for business, but delivery is what matters.”

See also

Economic leadership group has never met, MSPs told



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