Business: New Deal for Business Group minutes - June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 1 June 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 SRC - virtual
  • Colin Borland FSB - in person
  • Barry White NSET Board - in person
  • Louisa Macdonell BiTCS - in person
  • Sara Thiam SCDI - in person
  • Nathalie Agnew MM - in person
  • Marc Crothal STA - in person
  • Julie Ashworth, IoD - in person
  • Iain Baxter, SFD - in person
  • Liz Cameron, SCC - virtual
  • Sandy Begbie, SFE - virtual
  • Cllr MacGregor, COSLA - virtual
  • Gopalan Rajagopalan, TCS - virtual

Items and actions

Regulatory Review Subgroup

Work already in progress following two Joint Taskforce meetings. There are 3 main areas of focus for the Taskforce: Business Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA); matrix and timetable of future regulations; reinstatement of the Regulatory Reform Group (RRG) with the Taskforce role to review its Terms of Reference. The Taskforce will also consider creation of a place to raise concerns where process appears not to be working.

Cabinet Secretary noted the importance of being aware of the cumulative effect on business to ensure a robust process for that impact assessment. He also noted his willingness to discuss areas where we need to review, roll back or even scrap some plans.

Dr Malik commented that all feedback since the last meeting has been positive, that business have stressed that the process of review is critical and that they are seeking an intent to take decisions to change things. 

Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC): this group can make most impact. Observed a sense that focus is on regulation and not all impact is regulation driven. Noted need for focus on consumers, too. Crucial that Public Health and Environment Teams are involved. Matrix very welcome and sought prioritisation of that as well as being alive to what is also going on elsewhere in UK (e.g. extended producer responsibility).

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB): BRIA review incredibly welcome and keen to ensure the process builds in timing that is appropriate. Also important to understand the impact on small and microbusinesses. UK Government have introduced a Small and Micro Business Assessment (SaMBA) and in Northern Ireland it’s the Small and Micro Business Impact Test (SAMBITs). Keen to think about a “straw man” to contribute to Joint Taskforce work.  

Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA): consumers are important but also critical to think about competitors to ensure Scottish businesses can stay competitive.

Cabinet Secretary welcomed wider UK experience and noted the Circularity Bill and early engagement over the summer is an indicator of intent to do things differently. Keen for industry led initiatives to avoid the need for regulation.

Dr Malik recognised the importance of joining the dots across the subgroups and, for example, how the Sharing Key Metrics Sub Group can help create the feedback loop on the current economic and business operating environment.

Permanent Secretary: in addition to this work to improve the way we develop future regulations, should consider what scope there is to review the ongoing impact of existing regulations on business.

Summary of changes to subgroup/subgroup paper

  • Public Health and Environment Teams to be involved in subgroup 

  • ensure UK Regulation is considered (being mindful of different wording e.g. SaMBA vs SAMBITs) 

  • use the work of the Sharing Key Metrics group to create feedback loop on current economic and business operating environment 

Non Domestic Rates (NDR) Subgroup

Scottish Chamber of Commerce (SCC): covered wider strategic framework – won’t be quick solutions. Keen to sit down in partnership with assessors. Need regional transparency and decision making. Welcome opportunity and viable partnership to look at the long term problem. 

Dr Malik: Government and business are two pillars with the same goal, need to ensure we’re in sync, and come together with an open mind to iron out main challenges and create a short and long term framework. 

SRC: keen to participate in any long term thinking as well as short term solutions. Asked about the link between the tax consultation paper and budget announcement and timeline for tax paper publication. Action for officials to provide further information – Lisa McDonald to speak to Ellen Leaver and tax colleagues.

SCC: need to consider how tax consultation aligns with NDBG work and ensure comms with business community is clear. 

Institute of Directors (IoD): need to reassure business by providing something tangible that shows what NDR looks like now and what it will look like in the future.

Summary of changes to subgroup/subgroup paper

  • need to ensure the comms with the business community is clear on how the tax consultation aligns with NDR subgroup work 

Business Partnership Subgroup

Sub-Group 2 had a very positive and comprehensive first meeting and agreed on what would be achievable by the end of June. This would include:

  • a full articulation of the issues we are seeking to address
  • reporting back with findings on the causes of the problems (propositions for remedy will be delivered later in the year)
  • examples of good and bad practice in business engagement 
  • a route map for implementation

The Cabinet Secretary emphasised the importance of this sub-group and how it underpins the work of the NDBG and the other sub-groups. He reported that since the last meeting he has discussed the issue at Cabinet and followed that up with a letter to Cabinet colleagues encouraging them to map the business/community/social enterprise networks in their Portfolios and develop engagement plans. 

Members acknowledged key to success will be to shift the mindset across Government – building on the Business Principles Agreement and reaching those area where the views of business are not to the forefront – environment and public health were areas given as examples. Consulting business in the pre-policy period would be key and that showing transparency and active listening in policy development will help build trust and create a mutually beneficial environment for both government and business. 

This will be crucial in building trust so that business and government work together to achieve the same goal and where business have the opportunity to provide innovative solutions. 

The group agreed it will be ready to submit a scoping paper by 28 June.

Summary of changes to subgroup/subgroup paper

  • group keen there’s emphasis on shifting mindset across Government – building on the principles agreement
  • wording to include “consulting business in the pre-policy period”

Wellbeing Subgroup

Group purpose is to develop shared appreciation of how business contribute to wellbeing economy and agree on key areas we can work together.

Group aims to:

  • reach beyond usual suspects to answer “so what” question and how this will benefit businesses that aren’t currently aware – large comms piece required
  • develop a baseline of what businesses understand about wellbeing and how we can expand this. This will allow us to measure our progress. This group can be used to share it out with their networks 

Will do this by:

  • ensuring business are aware it’s not an either or scenario with economy and fairness/sustainability as putting both together results in more successful business e.g. better quality of investment, skills/upskilling and circular economy/just transition
  • addressing scepticism about terminology of wellbeing economy and rebuild trust of what will be delivered
  • using existing tools (e.g. business in community, B Corp)
  • ensure we don’t “turn off” businesses by using correct wording, especially important for small businesses – keen to get examples from small businesses already showing good practice  

Cabinet Secretary: “so what” question is fundamental, how do we make it relevant to business. keen for a survey to find out business understanding. Suggest a conversation with real living wage t to ensureary wording is business positive. 

SCC: long term piece of work with short terms gains. Need to be careful on wellbeing wording and who’s wellbeing we’re talking about. Important we don’t adopt attitude of talking at business rather than with them. Survey fatigue – if we do survey let’s be clear which customer group we are asking for information from, should consider other methodologies.

FSB: agree about reaching beyond usual suspects, happy to be involved with widening scope. Some haven’t heard about wellbeing economy, others are hostile to it as they think it’ll cost them money. But there are also good small business case studies to draw upon.

IoD: wellbeing can be different for every generation and often multiple generations in the workplace, need to be conscious of this. 

Dr Malik: need to ensure messaging shows we want business to thrive - wellbeing should not be at expense of growth. Customers often don’t want to associate with businesses that don’t align with values. Entrepreneurs are key focus for this as they will provide new jobs and wealth. Achieving our aim should be mutually beneficial – there shouldn’t be a conflict of interest.

Summary of changes to subgroup/subgroup paper

  • conversation to take place with Real Living Wage colleagues to align wording used with business 
  • definition of wellbeing - be clear who’s wellbeing is being addressed, as well as being mindful of wellbeing being different for different generations (most business have employees/employers of multiple generations) 
  • consider other methodologies of data collection other than a survey
  • widen scope of businesses to more small businesses (FSB to help)

Sharing Key Metrics Subgroup

Summary from Kathy Johnston

Noted wide membership of subgroup and it’s first meeting last week. Currently focusing on the data that is collated and how we share that; importance of real time data; development of a core set of data; sharing good case practice; use of strategies for measuring metrics and how those can be used; and use of technology.

Key areas of work over the next month include:

  • review of Industry Group strategies and map those against NSET metrics

  • summarising data on business resilience – to capture and feed in to other areas of work

  • collate case studies and ideas about data sharing/ data management

IoD: Universities should be included, recognising their important contribution to the economy

NSET Board member: noted important to align metrics

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS): Subgroup also agreed the need to consider how we use existing data that businesses already collect as well as the policy decisions data needs to drive.

Summary of changes to subgroup/subgroup paper:

  • representation from University sector to be invited to join the group

Any other business

  • Business in the Community (BITC): Scotland bringing business in early and business having a good relationship with government would be a magnet for investment and new business

  • STA: essential we bring in younger voices

  • Muckle media: productivity is key part for all subgroups but particularly wellbeing

  • Cabinet Secretary: subgroups to meet at least twice more to share draft by 12 June, final draft to be sent by 26 June, report back on 28 June before deciding how we proceed

  • Lisa McDonald to articulate in writing the strategic objective set out at the end of the session re Scotland being the best place in the world to do business

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