Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board minutes: March 2018

Minutes of the meeting of the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board held on 21 March 2018.

Items and actions

Item 1. Welcome, apologies and conflicts of interest

The Chair welcomed Members and advised that apologies had been received from Poonam Gupta and Bob Keiller.

The Chair then introduced Stephen Boyle, who has been appointed head of the Analytical Unit and was is attending as an observer in that capacity.

The Chair asked members if there are any were Conflicts of Interest – none were raised.

The Chair reminded Members that declarations of relevant interests should be returned by members. A request was made for the Secretariat to resend the advice around this.

Action – Secretariat to resend the advice on declarations.

Item 2. Chair’s Introduction

The Chair introduced the agenda and discussed the Board’s overarching ambition as set by Ministers of moving to the top quartile of OECD countries for productivity, equality and wellbeing, and sustainability.

The job of the board is to contribute to those aims by maximising return on investment, including by improving collaboration between the agencies and driving a common culture and commonality in the measurement of impact.

The previous Meeting Notes – Paper SB(21.03.18)(01) – were agreed with no issues raised or amendments requested.

Item 3. Revised Terms of Reference

The Chair proposed withdrawing the ToR as a number of further amendments had been proposed since the paper went out.

A sub-group will look at the scope of the ToR and written comments are welcome in the meantime. The Chair confirmed that the ToR therefore remain in draft at this stage.

Action – Secretariat to form a subgroup to look again at the ToR. To be reviewed at next Board Meeting

Item 4. Enterprise & Skills Review Workstreams

Summary information around current workstreams which derived from the Enterprise and Skills Review was presented. The Board noted that the E&S Review had concluded but that a number of workstreams, led by SG sponsors, were continuing on multiple fronts and at different stages. Board discussion included the following points:

  1. The paper and the workstreams were noted and generally well-received.
  2. Issues were raised over the Learner Journey workstream and a lack of clarity and information around this. The Board was advised by SG that the Learner Journey Review is currently with Ministers for decision. The Board agreed that the Learner Journey should be reviewed as a “deep dive” at a future meeting (May if it coincides with Ministerial agreement).
  3. Customer journey: The Board wished to understand how work in this area has been taken forward. Agency Chairs advised that good progress has been made involving various areas of collaboration. It was agreed that the Board would benefit from a presentation on the enterprise support customer journey There was a recognition that the benefits of driving a consistency of approach had to be reconciled with variation in regional needs and demands.
  4. It was agreed that the Board did not need to track all workstream areas. The Secretariat would work with the sub-groups and the Analytical Unit to draw out the actions that are of interest to the Board as on-going monitoring.
  5. The importance of the five productivity drivers that structure the workstreams was noted.
  6. Huge resource is going into the work across the public sector, leading to a question over how the private sector can engage fully over such a wide span of work.
  7. There is a need to understand timing around when the individual workstreams come to an end or become business as usual.
  8. Going forward, it was suggested that the role of the Board should be to monitor progress, support areas where it is needed and look for areas where further collaboration would drive greater results. Operational matters would not come under Board responsibility.

It was agreed that as the Board creates its Strategic Plan, it is essential the these existing workstreams transition seamlessly, with the Strategic Board maintaining oversight of work, where required. For the next Board meeting the Board should receive an update in paper format on key strands of the workstreams from ‘owners’ highlighting progress and any challenges/barriers to progress.

The way in which the impact of these workstreams should be measured was discussed, with the suggestion to measure them against the purpose and objectives based on the recommendations of the Enterprise and Skills Review at present, before framing measurement of impact against the five drivers of productivity.

It was agreed the enterprise support customer journey and learner journey should be subject of a “deep dive”. This would include a paper and presentation at the May (or June) Board meetings. It was also suggested that Regional Partnerships was a workstream that might also benefit from more in depth consideration by the Board.

Action – Two or three of the workstreams are to be presented at the next Board to support a deep dive into these areas. Other workstreams are to provide paper reports.

Item 5. Overview and measurement of existing agency activities

The four agencies presented on their key interventions – mapping interventions to measure impact versus importance.

Scottish Enterprise

Paul Lewis presented for SE. Their focus is on accelerating business growth, major economic opportunities and increasing international trade and investment. Impact is measured in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA) and jobs but there is a need for clearer measures around Inclusive Growth. The timescale of impact is also important (as some impacts will be in the short term, others over the long term). Paul explained how evaluation and evidence helps to change activity and increase impact and additionality.


  • international benchmarking was discussed and it was recognised that Scotland does well in some areas but lacks in others
  • the importance of connectivity and infrastructure was discussed. SE makes some small investments in this area, while SG investment is prioritised. A role was seen for the Board to feedback or make recommendations around other policy areas outwith the agencies areas of responsibility e.g. around infrastructure investment
  • it was suggested that information around activity by SG’s Digital Directorate may be able to help the Board understand overall commitments and avoid duplication of effort. Digital is seen as a key area under pinning successful economic growth
  • there was a recognition that Scottish National Investment Bank would overlap with SE investment and activity, for example capital investment, debt and equity funding. SNIB could become the consolidated investment vehicle. For discussion at a future point

Skills Development Scotland

Damien Yeates presented for SDS. He explained the skills planning model which drives SDS’s work, drawing the interests of the economy, employers and individuals together. He highlighted the return on investment from work-based learning and suggested there is scope for further investment to be made in this area. He also mentioned the importance of skills planning, the need for data sharing and digital platforms.


  • considerable attention was given to work-based learning and joining industry and the skills system together more closely
  • there was discussion around the issue of attracting young people towards subjects with the greatest career potential. However there was less information available around future skills needs
  • there was discussion around the aging population and the potential to increase economic activity among older people, through reskilling
  • there is potential for greater investment in work-based learning, which could be used to develop and sustain meta-skills such as creativity and communication

Scottish Funding Council

John Kemp presented for SFC, setting out funding for teaching in colleges and universities, and on research and knowledge exchange. Widening access is hugely important and this is a key focus for the Deputy First Minister (and hence measures of success should be broader than just GVA).

SFC is also looking at issues such as success rates, median earnings of graduates by subject and the ways that agencies could work better with the help of the Analytical Unit.


  • the Analytical Unit should explore consistency on measurement of return on investment from 1) colleges, 2) universities and 3) work-based learning to help make evidence-informed decisions about skills/careers training
  • funding and measures are based on research excellence rather than commercialisation prospects
  • Scotland is asset rich in terms of university R&D, there are questions around how best to maximise its return
  • There was discussion around the RoI of research and export earnings from foreign students
  • three-quarters of research funding does not come from SFC but is won competitively. In terms of commercialisation, there is some misalignment between the areas Scotland’s universities excel at, and where the businesses/business types are located. For example, biomedical science and lack of major company presence from this sector
  • where R&D aligns with the company base, this tends to drive commercialisation

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Charlotte Wright presented for HIE, explaining HIE’s role in accelerating growth, innovation R&D, and inward investment/international trade. She pointed to the development of infrastructure to support growth and used the example of the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus. HIE is also investing in community owned assets and social enterprises in order to drive inclusive growth. Measures of inclusive growth need to be developed and the long-term impacts of investments should be recognised.


  • with regards to RoI, it was discussed that investment is aimed at leveraging economic growth in the long term
  • community owned assets and social enterprises offer wider long term impacts for inclusive growth, social purpose and social entrepreneurship
  • there was discussion around measurement challenges such as inclusive growth and taking a long term view. HIE is working on consistent measurement with SE
  • on infrastructure investment such as broadband, the point was made that it’s not just about putting in the infrastructure, it’s about marketing it so that businesses actually use it

The Chair asked Stephen Boyle to comment on the agency presentations. SB noted that the lack of a common currency in terms of measurement of impact would complicate decisions around prioritisation and resource allocation. Consistency and commonality of measurement needs to be explored as priority. He noted that agency activity had been exclusively placed in the top right quadrant on the grid of importance and impact and also highlighted some of the very high rates of return on the public investment set out in the presentations which did not appear to be evident in Scotland’s ‘bottom line’.

Item 6. Agency corporate collaboration and culture change

Paul Lewis spoke on agency corporate collaboration. Around 10 colleagues from each agency will come together in a facilitated session to look at the value of collaboration and whether it is possible to establish a common set of values for all the agencies. He added that HR colleagues are also working together to examine how they increase collaboration, including around induction, development support, performance, and “agency fluid staff” that could move between organisations in an easier way.

During discussion, points were raised about the importance placed on collaboration from the outset of the Review, the need to be able to measure the impact of collaboration and that further work was required on collaboration. Scotland is Now was flagged as a good example of collaboration and cross agency working.

It was emphasised that collaboration and organisational resilience were complementary – and both were needed to rise to the challenges now faced. The Board should hold the sub-group on collaboration to account to ensure that collaboration is happening effectively.

Item 7. Strategic Plan Route Map

The Chair explained that this agenda item would run through actions, activity and further thinking developed since the Strategy Day. There was a clear message that Ministers need to see progress but that any Strategic Plan needs to be informed by data and analysis and the Board needs breathing space to be able to do that.

Strategic Plan Development

The Chair asked the Board to agree to producing an outline Strategic Plan showing the direction of travel by June, followed by the full Strategic Plan in October, taking account of the Programme for Government and influencing the Budget. This was agreed.

Framework/Areas of Focus

Dominic Munro presented a consolidated economic framework that had been developed in response to previous comments from the Board that there are a number of different frameworks and a need to develop a single, consistent approach.

DM had developed the matrix that the Chair had introduced to structure development of the Strategic Plan (and which had been circulated in the Chair’s note on the draft route map in January) to align the matrix with the existing consolidated framework. This also took into account the areas of interest that the Board had identified during the Strategy Day.

Considerable debate followed around the pros and cons of the matrix presented, including:

  • concerns were expressed about complexity, which might be interpreted as six drivers multiplied by seven themes
  • a general view developed that one or the other of the horizontal or vertical elements of the matrix should be prioritised, not both (although whichever was chosen would still be considered against the other)
  • there were polarised views around whether sub-groups/missions should be based on the vertical drivers of productivity or the horizontal cross-cutting themes; no conclusion was reached
  • there was discussion of whether Fair Work fitted better as a driver of productivity or as a cross-cutting theme (more akin to an outcome), with the Board settling around the latter
  • there was a suggestion that “global” should become a theme (as well as international being a driver) as it was in the original matrix in the draft route map
  • a point was made about prioritising gender in relation to other protected equalities characteristics. The critical importance of addressing gender issues was emphasised
  • the horizontal themes were intended as a guide to exploring key initiatives and areas to drive inclusive economic growth. These had been developed from Strategy Day discussions and from recommendations in the E and S Review. However, the horizontal themes may lack comprehensiveness and evidence base. The point was made that the horizontal themes could be used as a framework to focus considerations of the content for the Strategic Plan. Cross-cutting missions would help the Board to look at economic challenges and opportunities in a different way
  • basing the work on the vertical productivity drivers would mirror the way the agencies currently operate and are funded, so while this would make sense in some respects (e.g. ability to measure impact), it might be seen as more of the same. However, it was pointed out that the five drivers of productivity are there because they are universally regarded as drivers of economic growth and if the agencies perform better in those, then the economy should grow faster. The productivity drivers are more comprehensively measurable in this respect whereas the, missions, if adopted, may not be at this stage
  • it was recognised that the Strategic Plan will need to be able to be communicated to all agency employees

The Chair concluded the discussion by saying all the points in the discussion had been noted and that she would respond with a further iteration after a meeting with Stephen Boyle and the executive team.

Action to circulate a revised proposal on how to approach the plan, then hold a board teleconference if required.

It was agreed in principle that individual Board members would be approached to lead a piece of work around a theme or driver (depending on outcome of discussions above). The Secretariat would support the setting up of these groups in order to ensure wider participation and engagement with stakeholder groups. It is anticipated each group will have representation from the Secretariat, SG policy, the Analytical Unit, agencies and potentially other partners.

Gary Gillespie then summarised a presentation on evidence available on Gender and Growing Companies, to illustrate the approach that could be taken on developing the evidence to support the discussions with stakeholder groups. It was noted that this work had quickly generated discussion points of interest.

Outline Strategic Plan

The Chair introduced the Outline Strategic Plan Proposal. The Board agreed to follow the approach set out in the paper.

Action – Chair/secretariat to circulate a revised proposal on how to approach the plan, then hold a board teleconference as required.

Action – Chair to approach members to lead each theme or driver. Secretariat would support the setting up of these groups.

Item 8. Analytical Unit

Stephen Boyle spoke about the Analytical Unit. The immediate priority is to support the development of the Strategic Plan. It’s also important that the Strategic Board takes ownership of and supports the Analytical Unit’s work plan.

The resource requirement will flow from the work which is to be undertaken, and so he will come back with a proposal in May. It was proposed that some resource should come from Agencies in the form of secondments, and from SG, although some external recruitment will likely be necessary. If that becomes clear, he would appreciate being able to progress with that ahead of the next Board meeting.

Action: Analytical Unit to come back in May to set out detailed resource requirements.

Item 9. Communications and Engagement Plan

The Chair talked about communications and engagement and the importance of developing a consistent narrative, particularly for engagement. For the next meeting a high level message paper which can be used by all should be produced. It was felt that the stakeholder list should be made more comprehensive. There are now more and more requests for engagement with the Strategic Board and that should be viewed as a positive It was noted that Board members would need to support some of the forthcoming engagements.

Action: Secretariat to develop a high level message paper which can be used by all. More comprehensive stakeholder list to be developed.

Item 10. AOB

The Chair said there are still some governance issues which need to be bottomed out and these should be addressed at the next meeting.

Next meeting: 17 May 2018 at Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries DG1 4TA


Email: EnterpriseandSkillsPMO@gov.scot

Phone: 0300 244 6701

Enterprise and Skills Programme Office
Scottish Government
Third Floor
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU

Back to top