finance

Scotland must make 'system-level' economic changes


Collaborative leadership – from both public and private sector – must underpin Scotland’s economic aspirations as an advanced small nation.

That’s the message from Insider’s Scotland:Reset webinar, in partnership with CMS Scotland.

Coupled with this, Scotland needs to revisit its governance structure, including how the economic and enterprise network operates, to look at how ‘system-level changes’ can be made to deliver a decarbonised economy.

If you’d like to watch the event in full, please click here or view below.


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You will hear Benny Higgins, former bank chief executive and now business adviser, as question-master with the guest panellists: Kate Forbes, Secretary for Finance and the Economy; Prof Iain Docherty, dean of the Institute of Advanced Studies at University of Stirling; Maggie McGinlay, chief executive of the Energy Transition Zone; Murdo Fraser, Covid-19 recovery spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives; and Peter Tipler, director of energy consultancy Xodus.

In his opening remarks, Higgins said: “As far as leadership is concerned, I believe this is the most important thing in the next 10 years – leadership will be at the heart of what we can achieve in Scotland.”

Responding to questions from him, Forbes agreed that collaboration was the essential ingredient.

“As a small, developed nations we cannot chase every opportunity, but we can aspire to be a leading nation.

“Whilst there are great benefits to being a small advanced economy, also understanding what is going on in each sector and each geography is critical.

“We can’t leave people behind and we hear a lot these days about a just transition – just transition for me is that all parts of Scotland are firing on all cylinders and benefiting from economic participation,” she said, arguing that this cannot happen without collaboration and there needs to be a ‘national endeavour’ to reach a fair and just society.

However, Docherty stated that the nation needs to change how it is governed to ensure a fairer society, suggesting “systems level changes” are required to get collaborative governance structures in place.

“We’ve got a system of governance within Scotland which dates from the pre-devolution era, so we have a system of local authorities across most of the country which were designed to be in competition with each other for population and business investment.”

Docherty said this system does not ‘speak’ to today’s challenges in terms of the renewal of infrastructure and the place-making and communities that will be required over the next decades.

“We really need to have a serious conversation about how we pay for the change and the government investment that is required,” he said, explaining that the most pressing challenge will be in dealing with Scotland’s housing stock, where too many people are living in sub-standard housing.

He said both UK and Scottish governments will need to borrow “unprecedented sums” to make the public housing stock fit for a decarbonised economy.

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