7th September 2021

Responding to the publication of the Scottish Government’s 2021-2022 Programme for Government, Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“The First Minister recognised that businesses continue to be badly affected by the pandemic and that recovery remains fragile and it is right that today’s Programme for Government places Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19 first and foremost on the agenda.

“The confirmation that businesses will continue to receive a 100% business rates relief for this financial year, and that the Fresh Start Fund, Small Business Bonus and Growth Accelerators will continue for the length of the whole Parliament is particularly welcome and will give businesses a firm footing from which to rebuild.

“However, these reliefs alone will not spur the economy into action and the Scottish Government must work in partnership with industry on recovery and growth policies if we are to protect jobs and businesses.”

On International Trade:

“Scotland’s international competitiveness, connectivity and exporting capacity has been badly damaged by the pandemic and Brexit, so rebuilding our connections, repairing supply chains and getting back into international markets is essential for Scotland’s businesses. The Programme for Government’s commitments to grow Scotland’s international reach and reputation are welcome and SCC stand ready to showcase the innovative and high-quality products and services that Scottish businesses have to offer the world.

“Crucial to enabling Scotland’s exports is the full re-opening of Scotland’s international travel sector and whilst the commitments to restore lost connectivity go some way to achieving this, what the sector needs is urgent support through a dedicated Scottish Aviation Strategy. This was missing from today’s announcement and industry will want to see this addressed as quickly as possible.”

On the Non-Domestic Rates COVID-19 Appeals Bill:

“We continue to be dismayed at the Scottish Government’s removal of the rights for businesses to appeal and the retrospective removal of the material change of circumstances mechanism which will penalise businesses at a time when industry requires as much support as possible.

“The Scottish Government proposals are completely at odds with key principles of certainty and fairness in a modern taxation system and goes against the main aim of the Barclay review to design a rates system that better reflects changing marketplaces.

“This Bill could burden the Scottish business community with hundreds of millions in Non-Domestic rate charges which it would otherwise not have had to bear, and which will not be offset by the consequential funding promised.”

On upfront business costs:

“Many businesses remain in survival mode as they recover from the pandemic and had hoped to see a commitment to scrap or defer the introduction of any new taxes or levies on business for the lifetime of the next Parliament.

“That additional business taxes such as the workplace parking levy and transient visitor levy are still on the government’s agenda will be disappointing for those sectors affected who simply want to focus on recovery.

On Tourism:

“The commitment to support the recommendations of the Tourism Recovery Taskforce are positive, but there are huge issues in Scotland’s labour market and supply chain that need addressed if we are to secure a tourism sector recovery and future growth.

“Coupled with the continued restrictions on international travel, much greater investment will be needed to support the sector in the immediate term.”

On Digital Support for Business:

“Increasing the digital capacity of businesses is a priority for Scottish Chambers of Commerce and we are pleased to see our request for additional funding and support announced today.

“The additional funding to help businesses harness the economic potential of technology is extremely welcome. Throughout the pandemic many businesses moved their operations on-line, and we know that there is a huge digital skills and infrastructure gap that continues to hold businesses back from maximising their full potential.

“Connectivity and the digital divide remain a stumbling block for many businesses in many parts of Scotland, particularly rural and remote areas, and a commitment to tackle this through the provision of greater 4G and fibre broadband will provide a significant boost to businesses. However, industry will want to see urgency and pace; any further delays to roll-out will place Scottish businesses at a disadvantage.”

On Climate Opportunity and a Just Transition:

“Scotland’s oil and gas sector remains a major contributor to Scotland’s economy and the commitment to support the findings of the Just Transition Commission are positive, as well as the announcement of a decade long £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray which will support businesses successfully adapt and evolve.

“The North East is crucial to Scotland’s economic recovery and it’s vital that the Scottish Government invest in our strategic strengths, leveraging our expertise in areas such as oil and gas into new technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen to meet Scotland’s Net Zero targets.”

On Skills & Talent:

“Businesses need talent to drive growth and SCC have been calling for a clear plan from government to support the upskilling and reskilling of Scotland’s workforce at all levels.

“Commitments today to continue the delivery of the Young Person’s Guarantee as well as considerable investment in green jobs through the provision of the National Transition Training Fund are supported by SCC and we are pleased to see them receive backing.

“Scotland’s businesses need a skilled workforce and we hope to see the implementation of the Logan Review close the digital skills gap that exists in Scotland and the Greens Jobs Workforce Academy also drive forward the talent pipeline for the associated sectors.”

On education reform:

“Confirmation that the Scottish Government will replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority with a new agency overseeing the school’s curriculum creates a real opportunity to refocus Scotland’s education sector to support the rapid reskilling and upskilling of the workforce including school leavers and those seeking work.

“The new agency should work closely with Scotland’s business community to understand the needs to industry and their overall approach to the curriculum should be laser focused on meeting the immediate requirements of a post-pandemic economy with a greater emphasis on digital training and skills.”

On the National Economic Transformation Strategy:

“We welcome the scope of the strategy and the announcement of the National Challenge Competition which will provide millions in funding to projects with the greatest potential to transform Scotland’s economy. This will be critical to keeping Scotland’s economy competitive, increasing productivity, reinvigorating our town and city centres, and marking Scotland out as a global player.”

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