Scottish Business Growth Group minutes: March 2019

Minutes of the fifth meeting of the Scottish Business Growth Group held on 7 March 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Colin Borland, Head of Devolved Nations, FSB
  • Andrew McRae, Scottish Policy Convenor, FSB
  • Graeme Jones, Chief Executive, SFE
  • Tracy Black, Scotland Director, CBI
  • Matt Lancashire, Director of Policy, SCDI
  • David Watt, Executive Director, IoD
  • Aidan O’Carroll, Chair, IoD
  • Ian Wall, Chair, SCDI

Scottish Government:

  • Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation
  • Joe Brown, Interim Deputy Director, Business Engagement and Rural Economic Development Division (BERED) 
  • Richard Rollison, Deputy Director, Innovation, Industries and Investment
  • Stephen Pathirana, Deputy Director of Trade and Investment Delivery 
  • Gillian Dolan, Business Engagement and Events Officer, BERED

UK Government:

  • Rt Hon. David Mundell MP, Secretary of State for Scotland
  • Lord Callanan, Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU)
  • David Rodgers, Deputy Director, EU Exit, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • Steven Thompson, policy lead, Business, Trade and Industrial Strategy (OSSS)
  • Stephen McLean, policy advisor, Business, Trade and Industrial Strategy (OSSS)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Mr McKee opened the meeting by welcoming the members to the 5th Scottish Business Growth Group (SBGG) meeting, in particular, Lord Callanan, Minister of State, DExEU.  He noted apologies from Mr Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work and Mr Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations. 

Members endorsed the draft minutes of the last meeting for publication.

Mr McKee and the Secretary of State then outlined the context for the Brexit element of the agenda and welcome the opportunity to engage with business leaders, both generally and on Scottish and UK Government planning for a No Deal outcome.

UK Withdrawal from the EU

Lord Callanan provided an update and highlighted the range of possible scenarios associated with ongoing process in the UK Parliament and discussions with the EU.  

Lord Callanan stressed that while the UK Government wanted to avoid a No Deal Brexit, appropriately extensive and prudent planning had been progressed with the support of the devolved administrations, but not the EU who would not engage on no deal planning. He briefed members fully on the actions taken to support and provide relevant information to business through

Mr McKee referred members to the Chief Economic Adviser’s recent report No-deal Brexit: economic implications for Scotland and the Prepare for Brexit campaign and website

Mr McKee confirmed that the Scottish Government’s position remains that it would like ‘No Deal’ to be taken off the table and asked the UK Government what financial support would be put in place to support Scottish businesses in preparing for and responding to Brexit.

The Secretary of State confirmed that the UK Government had agreed in principle to provide such financial support, and was now focused on developing appropriate criteria and the level and nature of support. 

In discussion members again voiced their strong concern about leaving the EU without a deal and business confidence in government’s preparedness to support companies and have all legislative and regulatory arrangements in place. They welcomed the self-assessment tool on and while stressing their active support in encouraging their members to prepare, they encouraged both Governments to provide information in a more accessible and business-friendly way.  Illustrating that point, there was low awareness of the diagnostic tool on or the extensive, collaborative and ongoing work with banks and other financial institutions. CBI offered to add links to both sites on their website to make it easier to signpost businesses to EU exit advice. The Secretary of State stressed that the best way to avoid uncertainty was for MPs to back the PM’s deal. Members also engaged Lord Callanan on a range of issues including:  the scope to extend the 29th  March deadline and other options open to the UK Government; and the business case for a migration policy which recognises the distinctive challenges in different sectors and locations across Scotland and the UK. 

Mr McKee, the Secretary of State, and members thanked Lord Callanan for attending and enhancing this key element of the agenda.

UK Industrial Strategy (UKIS) update

Mr McKee noted that while both Governments use different language to describe the desire for increased productivity and prosperity, growing the economy is a shared ambition. He stressed that the UK Industrial Strategy provides a vehicle to work collaboratively to that end, exemplified by Scottish Government funding for SCDI-led workshops, communications activity and investment in Scottish partnerships and consortia (relating to, for example, offshore wind and wave, and manufacturing). 

Secretary of State Mundell welcomed UKIS partnership working with the Scottish Government and he recognised the scope for closer alignment with the other key area of collaboration, City and Growth Deals, noting the recent announcement of the £200 million Ayrshire Growth Deal. In both contexts a key challenge is to engage with and involve business, recognising the full and active participation of Higher Education and Research Institutions across Scotland. 

In discussion, members asked that existing work by the UK and Scottish Governments with partners be deepened and intensified. In particular they requested that further joint work was done to raise awareness of opportunities (particularly through case studies highlighting business success) to create incentives for participation and to reduce administrative or other barriers. 

SBGG terms of reference

Members considered the paper prepared by the Secretariat which addressed the technical requirement to review the terms of reference for the group.  The consensus was that these meetings are valuable and should continue to cover any transition period and the ramifications that will come from Brexit.  Members agreed to schedule a further review in 2 years. The Secretariat will amend the terms of reference accordingly and progress with arranging further meetings.


Mr McKee advised members that the Scottish Government’s Export Growth Plan is expected to be published in early-May.

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