Thank you for relaying these important questions on behalf of Scottish Chambers of
Commerce members. If elected as SNP leader on Monday, and First Minister shortly
thereafter, I look forward to maintaining and building upon my much-valued relationships within the SCC, and will commit to always having an open-door policy to our business communities.
Let me give you an absolute assurance that I view economic growth as a priority, and believe it goes hand in hand with our commitment to progressive taxation. In terms of plans to drive economic growth, my government would build on and bring focus to the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. This strategy prioritises economic growth by strengthening Scotland’s reputation as a leader in the journey to net zero, and embedding our position as a global renewable superpower. I want to focus particularly on the framing of economic success around not just GDP growth, but also building an understanding of how a wellbeing economy and wellbeing society go hand in hand. One example of this is the process of just transition in the energy sector – we have seen the scarring to communities and the societal damage that happens when through the process of industrial change there is a government that doesn’t support people through that. In any government I lead, we will never leave people and communities behind. We will invest in people, facilitate the top-up of their skills, to make sure that they are able to play their full part in the net zero economy.
Of course, growing the economy and the tax base of Scotland is fundamentally, vitally
important to ensuring our fiscal sustainability. One often overlooked way of doing this, is ensuring the path for parents back into the workplace is as manageable as possible. That is why my first, flagship policy of the campaign was for a £500 Helping Hand payment to assist parents with childcare, to be paid back later on in their career.
As stated above, my door will always be open to business stakeholders to discuss the impact of regulations and Scottish Government policy – to help facilitate this, I have committed to introducing a small business impact assessment at the policy development stage. However, the principles of a wellbeing economy reflect that business interests must always be balanced with the overall impact on society. Business communities and the SCC will always be welcome at the table to discuss whether we are getting this balance right. I believe strongly that the best way to build a prosperous and fairer Scotland is to build a strong working relationship with business, as the needs of business, of government and our wider society are aligned. We all have a shared interest in upskilling Scotland’s workforce, and creating good quality jobs that deliver fair work and fair pay. We all have a shared interest in educational attainment, health and wellbeing, in research and development and in our infrastructure and resources. There is no policy area that exists in isolation, so we need to ensure that everyone with a stake in Scotland is round the table when taking the decisions that will impact on us all. Business needs to be at the heart of that process.