1. Vision & Challenges
1.1 The Regional Economic Policy Advisory Group (REPAG) undertook this review with the intention of evidencing why, and in which policy areas, regional economic development works well and to create a set of recommendations that would serve as a starting point for Scottish Government to build upon.
1.2 This review follows the publication of the Scottish Government's National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET). NSET offers a stronger emphasis from the Scottish Government regarding the role they envisage for regional economies, articulating the policy direction and ambition for their contribution to transforming Scotland's economy.
1.3 Successful regional working is already evident in the City Region and Growth Deal Programme, which covers all of Scotland and to which the Scottish Government contributes £1.9 billion investment. The Deal Programme and Regional Economic Partnerships, alongside the agenda set out in NSET, provides the foundation for this review to set the trajectory for how regional economic policy can be delivered successfully in Scotland.
1.4 The Deal Programme is designed to bring about long-term strategic approaches to improving regional economies, aiming to harness additional investment, create new jobs and accelerate inclusive economic growth. However, the programme is finite, with Deals completing within 10-20 years. NSET recognises the value of regional working and it is vital that the Scottish Government build on the partnerships formed within regions under this programme to ensure that these do not dissolve post-programme.
1.5 The Regional Economic Partnerships (REPs – or their collaborative equivalent) are intended to offer that long-term security; galvanising regional working, the governance that underpins it, and using the Deals as a catalyst for further strategically planned growth.
1.6 REPs create and own their individual economic strategies, to drive innovation, and secure inward investment, linked to the Regional Investment Prospectuses which support the Vision for Trade set out by the Scottish Government. The overarching aim is to use regional strengths and new market opportunities to increase productivity whilst ensuring inclusive growth is used to combat regional inequalities.
1.7 The challenge of reducing the inequality within and between regions across Scotland is one every REP seeks to overcome, and the Scottish Government and their various National Agencies must work with them in a placed based manner to do this by promoting regional strengths and acting in a manner that emboldens every region to realise its potential.
1.8 The recommendations set out below focus on policy delivery, complementing the overarching agenda set out in NSET. It's important to set the recommendations in the context of the various economic crisis Scotland faces, where public finances are strained across competing asks of equal importance. As a result, REPAG have set broad recommendations which will allow costed options to be scoped out by the Scottish Government in terms of how they might be successfully implemented.
1.9 The Co-Chairs of REPAG, Professor David Bell and Professor John Bachtler would like to take the opportunity to thank all members of the Advisory Group (listed in Annex B) for their valued contributions, expertise and thoughtful consideration relating to this review, which combined set the trajectory for a bold and entrepreneurial regional economic policy in Scotland.
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