Publication - Consultation analysis

Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland: Report on written submissions to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery

Overview of responses submitted to Advisory Group on Economic Recovery regarding Scottish economic response to Covid-19. This document supports the initial AGER report published earlier by offering a more detailed analysis of the submissions received from the engagement activity of the group.

76 page PDF

1.1 MB

76 page PDF

1.1 MB

Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland: Report on written submissions to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery
7. Submissions from Individuals

76 page PDF

1.1 MB

7. Submissions from Individuals

This section outlines the key messages received through submissions from individuals. The text below serves as a narrative outline of insights, rather than direct quotations from said individuals, as a way to cover over 100 responses, many of whom wished to retain anonymity.

The insights outlined below are organised using the approach taken in the above report, through the 4 Capitals framework. Though they are shown within specific capitals, they often cut across several and are not to be seen as mutually exclusive.

7.1 Business - economic capital

By far the greatest number of observations from many individual responses received focused on areas of economic change, perhaps unsurprisingly given the context of the survey. Below will serve as an outline of the recurring areas of insight, as well as those of a more specific nature.

Many responses related to ways forward for different industries, as well as the necessity for business support. Related to this were insights which highlighted the need for improved supply chains and the need to support local, regional and national supply chains over that of international. This focus on what might be called the internal aspects of the economy was also reflected in respondents' attitudes to collaboration between local authorities and the Scottish Government, with insights suggesting there should be greater communication as well as delegated decision-making to a local level.

Several responses highlighted the need for a greater focus on manufacturing within Scotland, with one respondent calling for the delivery of a National Manufacturing Institute (although this perhaps suggests a lack of awareness of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) – Alongside this were calls for stronger links between public and private sector and the public procurement process to be simplified to be more SME-friendly for increased competition and business growth.

Opinion was split on the topic of public ownership of national assets, with many respondents calling for further nationalisation, while others saw this as inefficient and costly and noted their opposition to any further public intervention of this nature.

Many responses raised the issues facing the tourism sector in Scotland, highlighting the severe impact and the necessity for intervention and support to maintain a key contributor to the Scottish economy. The insights related to this spanned several areas, including transport infrastructure, financial support and diversification as well as addressing geographic inequalities between central and other regions of Scotland.

Specific proposals included:

  • An increased number of ferries to accommodate greater number of tourists more economically and efficiently.
  • The introduction of a tourism tariff over the next 10 years
  • Specific promotion of Scottish tourism to natives encouraging 'staycations' to boost the sector
  • Investment in green transport infrastructure
  • The necessity of national infrastructure to be publically owned and run.

There were a large number of submissions on tax (or charge) reform. A significant number would require further devolution of powers. This can be seen in suggestions such as the removal or remodelling of the Barnett formula to increase Scotland's control of its budget.

Several responses also argued for taxes to be raised for those earning more. This can be seen to link to the Social Capital pillar relating to equity amongst society. Linked to this were calls for increased vigilance on those utilising tax minimisation schemes. However, not all observations relating to tax were related to individuals, with some suggesting increased taxes for carbon-intensive or socially impeding businesses, products or services. This can be seen in calls for increased conditionality on business support and investment, with some suggesting finance should be linked to the National Performance Framework, wellbeing and low carbon conditions.

Most clearly linked to the Natural Capital pillar were suggestions to increase tax on carbon-intensive sectors, industries and products such as oil and gas. One respondent's proposal for supporting the financial recovery of Scotland's high street went so far as to suggest higher tax rates for online businesses such as Amazon to reduce the effect of the pandemic on physical shops.

However, some submissions, though low in number, argued that there should be a reduction in personal and corporate tax rates to increase Scotland's attractiveness to high earners and big business.

As noted in the above sections of this report, there were a number of individual responses that suggested various forms of conditionality to government support, both generally and in the context of Covid-19 recovery. Some of these related to wellbeing and social equity, but the majority related to climate change.

Two specific examples were related to the alignment of business support with the NPF and net-zero targets and social conditionality that requires reinvestment of profits back into the community, with the potential for the creation of new employment opportunities locally.

Again, as above there were a number of submissions that touched upon rural issues. The differential impact of the virus on rural economies dependent on either tourism and hospitality or primary industries was the key observation of those who submitted responses. Also closely related to responses addressing rural issues was the importance of access to digital services, with a clear link to the increases in remote working during the crisis.

While the majority of responses in this area called specifically for an increase in digital/broadband infrastructure and increased digital equity across Scotland, others were linked to renewables and the subsequent industries. One proposal was that there should be a focus to diversify industry in rural areas of Scotland away from an over-reliance on tourism, with more done to establish jobs within the renewables sector. This could be the restoration of peatland, reforestation or wind and wave technology. One respondent also called for increased investment in rural businesses but specifically those within the area of AgriTech and local food production. It was also argued that the status and security of agricultural jobs needed to be improved to encourage domestic uptake in a sector that is in need of workers.

Other responses do not lend themselves well to a sub-category: so the summary below serves to highlight areas of insight spanning the Economic Pillar more broadly.

Several responses related to working practices and roles in the context of remote working and the remuneration of key workers beyond the crisis. Some suggestions here included the introduction of a shorter working week of 3-4 days and local business hubs for remote working. In other areas, there were calls for increased support for private landlords who may have seen rental income decrease significantly during the pandemic.

7.2 Human Capital - Education and Skills

Insights in the context of Human Capital, largely related to education and skills, were commonly around the changing working environment and shift to more digital orientated working.

As is noted in the above report, there were, from individuals, also several submissions that suggested that there should be a refocus of Skills Strategies to address risks of unemployment, recognising the importance of high participation sectors. This can be seen in such suggestions of developing new skills programmes for future working environments to be funded and implemented going forward. Several responses specifically highlighted the need for further investment in digital skills training to aid in remote working, a practice many viewed as an inevitable aspect of future working practices.

Reskilling was also the focus of several responses, highlighting a need to retrain for future employment opportunities. These suggestions often focussed on the growing renewables industry.

Upskilling was also suggested as a route for improved productivity, notably within the manufacturing sector, in which it was suggested there be an increased uptake in such digital upskilling in areas such as large scale robotics within the shipbuilding industry.

A number of submission focused on employability. These responses tended to be around encouraging take-up, increasing support for different groups and to review existing schemes in the light of the post-virus economy. A recurring suggestion amongst individuals' responses was to target youth employment to ensure future job prospects. . Insights related to youth, though mentioned here, often related heavily to Social Capital and equalities and the need to ensure no disadvantage to youth entering the job market. Suggestions in this area often specifically related to jobs within the agricultural sector, an area already under pressure from a lack of youth within the workforce. Graduate schemes aimed at Scottish youth were also suggested to increase entry into the job market.

Another line of insight from respondents was in relation to the skills subjects and employability. It was suggested that there should be a more tailored approach to teaching practical subjects directly linked to employment alongside academic subjects.

There were calls to reform the education model in Scotland to align more closely with the Nordic model, in which children begin schooling later and there is a greater focus on outdoor learning.

A greater focus on entrepreneurship and enterprise skills within early education was also suggested within the responses received. Linked to this several responses highlighted the need for an increase in financial awareness and engagement in schools.

Related to the development of digital skills was the call for a unified digital platform across all Scottish schools to increase equity and efficiency across the country.

7.3 Social Capital

Social Capital in the context of the individual responses here links to insights into equalities including economic, social, digital and geographic.

Many submissions discussed issues around place-based interventions and the importance of local action. Insights in this area often focussed on the need for local authorities to have more decision making powers to be able to tailor decisions to local needs and desires within the community. This was, within several submissions, related to community/local authority involvement in renewable energy/heating initiatives and land use for said projects.

Several submissions called for interventions and increased support for areas outwith the central belt of Scotland. This ranged from calls for an increase in investment within businesses and enterprise building to increasing the attractiveness of these areas as a place to live and work, especially if remote working practices are to continue post crisis.

Several of the submissions made reference to specific issues around equalities and protected characteristics. In contrast to the responses from businesses many of the individual insights received highlighted financial/economic inequalities within Scotland and called for the introduction of Universal or Citizens' Basic Income.

Another area in which there was a strong call for development was within Scotland's digital infrastructure, specifically related to an increase in high performance broadband supply. This was especially highlighted in relation to rural areas and what many felt was the current lack of supply.

Economic or financial equality was also highlighted within submissions calling for greater recognition of key worker and low-paid retail and service industry roles. Many submissions called for an increase in wage rates and/or salaries as well as more security in employment.

As mentioned above in relation to conditionality there were several responses that highlighted the need for a greater conditionality in support. Specifically, many respondents highlighted the need for prioritisation of social standards or conditions as well as environmental. This was often related to business practices to aid in reaching net-zero as well as higher levels of staff wellbeing.

7.4 Natural Capital – Environment

Insights related to Natural Capital and the environment, for the most part, related to renewable energy production and low carbon technology and the financial means to do so. There were also, as mentioned above, many responses calling for greater environmental conditionality within support provision. Many submissions highlighted the need for environmental conditions to be linked to green initiatives and the National Performance Framework.

In terms of prioritisation of green investment and support, the responses reflected many of those from the overall responses highlighted in the above report. Respondents highlighted the need for an investment-led recovery with a focus on the Green and Blue economy and the promotion of behavioural change led by a Circular Economy or doughnut economics approach.

Some responses highlighted the desire to follow example nations such as New Zealand, Iceland and South Korea's wellbeing model approaches.

Several submissions suggested the introduction of government loan schemes targeted at decreasing environmental impact, through which businesses could access finance to help reduce their carbon footprint for example. Linked to this, it was suggested that carbon-intensive industries or products should be penalised through higher taxation of such goods or services. Aligned with this several respondents suggested there be incentives for those entering or within the renewables sector, specifically for SMEs.

As part of boosting competition in and increasing engagement with the renewables industry, it was also suggested that regulation within public procurement be reformed to increase likelihood and ability of SMEs to compete for contracts in this area. It was also suggested that planning requirements for renewable energy assets be relaxed to increase development in this area.

Transport infrastructure was also a topic covered in many responses. Many submissions highlighted the need for far increased investment in green infrastructure e.g. walking, cycling and electric vehicle charge points. This was also mentioned in the context of place-based interventions, with a focus on energy infrastructure and its links to local resilience through job creation, and increased efficiency of transport routes for tourism, such as the building, maintenance and running of low carbon ferries. The rural nature of Scotland was also noted as a significant barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles and something that should be addressed immediately.

Some further more specific examples of suggestions covered the introduction of a 'green' day in which, on a weekly basis, there would be an increased focus on green transport, as well as a suggestion related to housing in which an increase in EPC standards and regulation was recommended.

Carbon capture was also raised by several submissions which sought an increase in investment in carbon capture technologies and called for Scotland to become a world leader in this area. Related to this was the call to better utilise rural areas for production and storage of renewable energy and to make use of this within local setting in which it is captured. There were also suggestions to subsidise the grid connection for MW+ to further enable low carbon technologies to me implemented in such settings.

Responses also highlighted the potential of hydrogen produced from offshore wind to be exported. However, it was noted that for this to be beneficial for Scotland the wealth creation must remain within Scottish companies. This was evident in respondents calling for offshore wind production to utilise Scottish supply chains over internationals as can currently be the case.

Greater investment in renewable and low-carbon technology research and development was also noted to be of significant importance with advancements in Scotland's natural resources such as wind and wave power notable examples. Several respondents suggested greater investment in tidal energy/power as both a means of reaching net-zero but as a way to grow the economy and increase job opportunities within more rural areas.

Some submissions highlighted the role of green space over the course of the pandemic and its relationship to both mental health and equalities. Some insights noted the lack of accessible green space such as gardens and allotments during lockdown and the negative affect this had had on individuals and families. This was also linked to increased biodiversity within green space and calls for policies to be aligned with a greater contribution to promoting biodiversity.

As discussed above many of the insights related to natural capital also fall heavily within the other three capitals. This can be seen in examples such as the call for green conditionality for financial investment or support as well as links to greater emphasis on wellbeing through NPF alignment. Insights linked to wellbeing can also be seen in this form of conditionality that may also promote areas of improvement linked to social and economic capital such as increased remote working practices.

There were also several calls for the increased prominence and speed of the Just Transition process. This was highlighted in the need for high quality sustainable jobs related to, as discussed above, the renewable energy sector. Alongside this were calls for Scotland's Green New Deal to be brought forward with increased focus on the area and related policies.