National Economic Forum: March 2022

Programme and discussion papers from the National Economic Forum on March 2022.

Host: Mr Arthur, Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth

Facilitator: Jackie Brierton, Chief Executive, GrowBiz Scotland and member of the National Advisory Council for Economic Transformation

Scribe: Pippa Gardner, Scottish Government


This discussion group focussed on Productive Businesses and Regions. There are thirteen actions included in this section of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) and these range across improving connectivity infrastructure and digital adoption, upskilling business and public sector leaders to realising the potential of community assets and the strength of Scotland's regions. Scotland needs a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators to deliver a strong future economy where secure and well-paid jobs and thriving business help drive a reduction in poverty and inequalities.

Introduction and background

Mr Arthur emphasised a number of the key points made from the opening speeches - including the strong focus on partnership working, collective ownership and delivery. It is essential for Scotland's productivity performance to improve if we are to deliver a successful economy, one that is more prosperous, fairer and greener. It is also important that the benefits of this are distributed across all parts of the country and that we make the most of the strengths and assets in our urban and rural areas. Further insight exploring the issues behind Scotland’s productivity challenge was published by the Scotland Productivity Forum in December 2021 and is available here.

The discussion group was invited to debate on the potential and delivery of the actions and programmes in the NSET to drive productivity improvements.

Topics discussed

Harnessing the wisdom, knowledge and experience of older age participants into business. It was felt that this needed to be drawn out and discussed further and that there is a real opportunity to engage with that demographic; especially for those people needing to work longer. Scotland needs to fully support entrepreneurs and olderpreneurs. References were made to an Elevator programme 'Grey Matters' for senior oil and gas executives to develop business ideas, the GrowBiz accredited mentoring programme and Scotland's SCDI-led network of Productivity Clubs - a forum for peer to peer networking and learning that is specifically called out for expansion as an action in the NSET.

It was felt that more could be designed and structured to establish a culture of support for inter-generational transfer of knowledge and sharing of the insights that come with age and experience of managing change - marrying up younger people with an experienced voice through, for example, a mentoring capacity or embedding entrepreneurial change in our education system.

Reframe how we think about failure. There is a need to support and value anyone who wants to start out in business and create jobs for others but a high number of would-be entrepreneurs are put off. We don't have a strong tolerance for failure in Scotland and changing that will require a cultural shift. There is a real need to learn from failure in order to raise levels of entrepreneurship and productivity.

Further investment in enabling infrastructure is needed to get Scotland to where Scotland wants to be - transport, digital connectivity including 5G but also, for example, health care, social care and child care systems. The burden of regulation was cited as a potential barrier to implementation of the NSET and the question was raised as to whether new regulation or any changes to existing regulatory frameworks would be impact assessed against delivery of NSET? The potential of Community Wealth Building currently being piloted by Scottish Government and partners was discussed - noting that there are different models to deliver more inclusive economic growth and the challenges of supporting the whole system change required. A number of good examples of regional collaboration that already exist across the length and breadth of the country were cited but the danger of then falling naturally back into silos when it comes to delivery was highlighted. It was also noted that there is a strong infrastructure-first place-based approach at the heart of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) and the finalised version of NPF4 will take account of NSET.

Closing comments

Mr Arthur thanked participants for a stimulating discussion that started to explore how we transition the current uncertainty and challenges faced into opportunities for change and development. It was noted that a lot of the tools, techniques and technologies to drive up productivity already exist to realise Scotland's ambition and a strong focus on adoption is needed to support transition - taking what is already there and putting it into practice in a shared endeavour that is supported by continued engagement.


National Economic Forum

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