Europe 2020: Scottish National Reform Programme 2016

This report sets out the actions being undertaken in Scotland in support of the delivery of the Europe 2020 ambitions.

Ministerial Foreword

John Swinney

John Swinney MSP
Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy

The vision set out in Europe 2020 - for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth across Europe - is one that the Scottish Government shares and supports.

The ambitions of Europe 2020 are closely aligned with this Government's core Purpose of focusing government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

Last year we published Scotland's Economic Strategy, setting out how the Scottish Government and its partners will work together to boost Scotland's competitiveness and tackle inequalities.

There are a range of actions taking place across Scotland that contribute to delivering the Europe 2020 agenda, and to the delivery of our Purpose. This Scottish National Reform Programme - the sixth that we have presented since 2010 - showcases the distinct contribution that Scottish actions are making towards meeting the ambitions of Europe 2020.

During 2015 we saw a sustained improvement in the Scottish economy, despite significant external headwinds, with economic activity and employment in Scotland reaching record levels.

However, a number of challenges remain - including those arising from global factors that affect the oil and gas sector, and longer-term challenges around improving productivity and reducing inequality. These challenges underline the importance of the actions we are taking to improve Scotland's economic performance and ensure that the benefits of growth are shared across all of Scotland's people.

Central to this is the need to encourage more inclusive growth - a priority recognised and shared by both the Scottish Government and the European Commission. The Scottish Government and its partners are taking forward a range of actions across a number of fronts: taking action to improve educational attainment; helping to equip our young people for the labour market, particularly through our expansion of Modern Apprenticeships; reducing barriers to parents entering the labour market by expanding the number of funded hours of early learning and childcare; and encouraging the adoption of progressive workplace practices through promotion of the Scottish Business Pledge. This is an area where Scotland is increasingly being seen as a world leader, and one where we are keen to share our approach with our European partners.

Both Scotland's Economic Strategy and Europe 2020 highlight the central role of innovation in delivering smarter, sustainable and inclusive growth. Scotland is heavily involved in Horizon 2020, the European Union's programme for research and innovation. We are continuing to build on our strong base of innovation and research, through collaborative initiatives such as our Innovation Centres. As a leading member of the Vanguard Initiative, Scotland is collaborating with other EU regions to develop innovative approaches to EU industry internationalisation and competitiveness, which will help to find solutions to key issues holding back advances in EU countries.

The Scottish Government also shares and supports the priority that the Commission gives to making the transition to a more low carbon, resource-efficient economy. This is particularly the case in the emphasis we both place on making the move to a more circular economy. I welcome the Commission's focus on this, set out in the Commission's recent communication, Closing the Loop. The Scottish Government published our first circular economy strategy, Making Things Last, in February 2016, and we are working with partners to progress this agenda, through initiatives like the Scottish Institute of Remanufacture.

As this Scottish National Reform Programme makes clear, the ambitions of the EU and the Scottish Government are closely aligned. Actions being taken forward right across Scotland make a distinct and important contribution to the Commission's vision for sustainable, smart and inclusive growth. Membership of the EU has benefited and supported the actions that we have taken.

This year, the people of the United Kingdom will vote in a referendum on the UK's EU membership. For more than 40 years, individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland have experienced the social, economic and cultural benefits of EU membership, which is why we are making a positive, constructive case for staying in the European Union.

The EU is, and will continue to be, capable of change. If we are to promote positive changes for ourselves and others, Scotland must retain its role in the EU decision-making process. As a part of the EU, I believe that Scotland is in a stronger position to deliver the ambition that we share with the Commission of achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

John Swinney MSP
Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy


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