In 2007 the Scottish Government set out its core Purpose in the Government Economic Strategy of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. This Economic Strategy recognises the challenge faced across the key components of economic success - productivity, participation and population - and identifies the actions necessary to achieve a step change in our performance. It was published against the backdrop of historically high levels of employment and participation in the Scottish labour market. While the strategy has not changed, the scale of the challenge has clearly increased as a result of the recession.
The economic turmoil witnessed since 2008 has affected all parts of the economy and society and severely tested the resilience of Scotland's people and businesses. Official data show a return to growth for the economy at the end of 2009 but the combination of constrained trading conditions in the private sector, weakening labour market conditions and an uncertain outlook for the public sector means that the impacts of recession are likely to be felt for some time. The recent decisions taken by the UK Government mean that Scotland faces an even tougher financial outlook at a national and local level. These deep public sector spending cuts will weaken the recovery by taking vital resources out of the Scottish economy - resources that could have been used to nurture growth, keep people in work, help the unemployed back into work and support the aspirations of young people. Within these restrictions the public sector in Scotland must align behind the task of accelerating recovery and do what it can to provide the most supportive environment for economic renewal.
The actions taken on skills by the Scottish Government, local government and other partners across the country to manage the impacts of recession have been decisive, bringing not only help and support through the recovery period but also serving to develop the expertise necessary to respond to the opportunities that will emerge in post-recession Scotland and deliver long-term benefits to the economy. Internationalisation, new technologies and the transition to a low carbon economy brings particular opportunities. Scotland's ability to capitalise on these must not be constrained by a lack of individuals with the right skills. This refreshed skills strategy places a renewed focus on the skills needed to accelerate recovery and to deliver sustainable economic growth with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish over the long term.
Increasing the opportunities for individuals to develop and use their skills as best they can is not just as a strategy for increased efficiency and improved economic performance. It is also an effective way of improving the satisfaction and security of work and promoting the health and well-being of individuals and the fabric of communities. This refresh of the skills strategy positions Scotland for the long-term. To accelerate growth and create a more successful country Scotland must make more of the skills and talent that is available across the country. Future success is dependent on Scotland's people and with this strategy we look forward with optimism to a smarter Scotland with better jobs for people, increased productivity for businesses and more cohesive, engaged communities.
Keith Brown MSP
Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning