Business: New Deal for Business Group minutes - May 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 17 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy (Co Chair)   
  • Dr. Poonam Malik, Head of Investment, Strathclyde University (Co Chair) 
  • David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)                                         
  • Colin Borland, Federation of Small Business (FSB)                                        
  • Barry White, National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) 
  • Board Louisa Macdonell, Business in The Community Scotland (BiTCS)                
  • Mairi Spowage, Fraser of Allander Institute, University of Strathclyde (FAI) 
  • Sara Thiam, Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI)            
  • Nathalie Agnew, Muckle Media                                                                          
  • Marc Crothall, Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA)                                         
  • Catherine McWilliam, Institute of Directors (IoD)                                                
  • Iain Baxter, Scottish Food and Drink (SFD)                                                               
  • Liz Cameron, Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC)                                  
  • Sandy Begbie, Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE)                                            
  • Cllr MacGregor, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)         
  • Gopalan Rajagopalan, TCS Scotland (Tata Consultancy Services)

Items and actions


Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy welcomed the group and thanked them for attending, followed by introductions from the group. 

Cabinet Secretary: Scottish Government (SG) are keen to get the reset right and have a strong relationship with business while meeting the objectives of a wellbeing economy. Cabinet Secretary gave a personal commitment to make this relationship work. Recognise the value of this group and keen to work with members to shape workstreams. 

Dr Malik: welcomed group and advised aim is to reset relationship and rebuild trust with business while moving further towards a wellbeing economy. See her role as using my experience of bringing people together with a common goal across public, private and third to ensure we work better. Establishment of group is timely now we are moving out on the economic landscape of the last few years, crucial we build together and have a trusting relationship, focussing on the priorities to meet our common goal. 

Cochairs are keen to hear members suggestions for potential gaps in membership. 

Terms of Reference (ToR) 

SRC: Content with majority of ToR. Welcome short term group and subgroups, burden of rates system should be included in NDR subgroup. Keen for confirmation of whether this group will feed into budget decision process. Cabinet Secretary content to take suggestions on reform within public spending envelope/fiscally netural. 

SCDI: Need to ensure we remain focused on delivery of NSET recommendations. We will be collectively judged by actions rather than words. Need to consider short terms issues as well as long term investment strategy. Suggest building on long term investment work done by business purpose commission. Keen for quick action from this group. 

STA: keen to contribute to NDR discussion. Need to consider what is damaging sector's competitiveness e.g. Short Term Lets - the pause is welcome but little advancement since then, the sector has suggestions on how to address this and other areas such as Visitor levy, slowing it down and working collaboratively so it's right first time. Need to grow the international market and consider business tourism as well as leisure.  

Fraser of Allander: Echo above points advising they have a number of recommendations to contribute. ToR needs reviewed to add in wording about businesses co-producing solutions. Need to ensure we include large business as they generate majority of economic activity. 

COSLA: keen to be involved in discussion on co-production. ToR should be updated to include local government as well as enterprise agencies in role of the group.

SFE: Need to consider UKG regulations as well as SG. Need to consider the group's role in alignment across government (e.g. need to attract more people to Scotland but many companies can't attract talent due to higher tax rates). Keen this group evolves around outcomes with a narrow focus on what we will produce (including a focus on skills). 

BITC: Majority of policies covered are intersectional e.g. how will we ensure skills isn’t ringfenced from another area - need to consider how SG will communicate this across government. A large part of SG is not used to talking to business, a "getting to know you" element is needed. 

SCC: The group's objectives need some wording changed but strategically looks right. Suggest changing wording in NDR from enhancement to reform. Joint designing will be challenging internally for SG but can be addressed. Need to ensure this group doesn't just look internally at Scotland but at messaging to other countries. Each subgroup should define what a partnership means and ensure definitions align. Need all political parties to buy into this group. 

Muckle media: Need a tight definition of wellbeing economy and what this includes, could be confusing if it goes beyond fair work, need to reframe as an opportunity for business to help fix issues we're facing. Businesses overall, whether they contribute in various ways to the economy, should fall into the category of wellbeing economy  

IoD: need to ensure language we use is relatable to business to enable invested interest/buy in. 

FSB: endorse the ToR. Need to ensure the section on regulation includes reference to regulation assessments and how we define regulations to work for small businesses. Need to join up cross government activity, this group can explore options of how we do this. 

Establishment of sub-groups and ways of working

Subgroups need to ensure we get culture and language right. Welcome group expressing positive messaging and bringing back ideas and working examples from business. Need to work backwords from goals and work out timeline. Subgroups can demonstrate engagement and provide timescales, co-chairs are both available for subgroups. 

There will be five subgroups based around NSET pillars. 

  • regulation - FSB to lead (and SCC keen to input)
  • how SG communicates and works in partnership with business on policy development - SFD to lead 
  • NDR (co-chaired by Mr Arthur) - SCC to lead, COSLA/local gov will give input
  • wellbeing economy and maximising investment - SCDI to lead with input from BITC and Muckle Media
  • sharing data across sectors/organisations (enterprise agencies, SDS, Local Government to be involved) - SFE to lead, on basis that sectors are clear on their three - five year strategy so data can be measured. TCS to give input

Any other business

FM keen for report on subgroups findings by end of June including suggested actions, group agreed on end of June timescale. 

SRC: PfG in September. Keen to use this group as testing for PfG. 

Cabinet Secretary confirmed members are free to talk publicly about involvement and outcomes

SFE: suggest that subgroups identify quick wins as well as longer term solutions. 

Immediate actions

  • suggested amendments are made by group secretariat regarding the Terms of Reference 
  • members to review and confirm which sub-groups they wish to be involved
  • secretariat to confirm remaining NDBG dates 


New Deal for Business Group

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