By a Newsnet Scotland Reporter
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today placed the strengthening of the Scottish economy at the heart of the Cabinet’s agenda at a speech before business leaders.
The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, set out last week, included a promise to extend the Small Business Bonus Scheme for the lifetime of the next parliament if the SNP is re-elected. This year Scottish Government rates relief will help two out of every five business properties to the tune of £600 million.
Plans to establish a Scottish Development Bank to support high growth firms were also announced, along with funds to support the building sector by adding £30 million to the £100 million already allocated to the Help to Buy scheme.
It was also announced that job opportunities would be created by increasing the number of Modern Apprenticeships to 30,000 a year by 2020, building on progress to date.
She has appointed Professor Harry Burns, one-time Chief Medical Adviser to the Scottish Government, to the Council of Economic Advisers, which will continue to be chaired by Scots-American business leader Crawford Beveridge.
This is to emphasise the Government’s twin approach to addressing economic growth and continuing inequality.
The First Minister told an invited audience: “In the months ahead, I want us to focus less on what we disagree on and much more on finding the common ground between us as we consider how to drive the prosperity and competitiveness of our country.
“All of us want to ensure that we have an economic engine able to succeed in the ever more competitive UK, European and global markets that we live in.
“Just like you, I want us to shoot up the league table of competitiveness.
“And I want us to be an attractive, rewarding and value-creating place to locate a business, to employ people and to grow.
Ms Sturgeon welcomed the announcement by her hosts, energy firm SSE, of the Caithness-Moray subsea cable project, a 100-mile cable that will deliver offshore wind, wave and tidal power from the North of Scotland to homes and businesses across the country.
“A key part of this debate will always be about how we compete with London,” commented Ms Sturgeon.
“In looking at that, we need to recognise both the economic value of London and the benefits to our business and economy from our proximity to it, as well as the significant challenges it poses.
“London has a centrifugal pull on talent, investment and business from the rest of Europe and the world. That brings benefits to the broader UK economy. But as we know that same centrifugal pull is felt by the rest of us across the UK, often to our detriment.
“The challenge for us all is how to balance this in our best interests – not by engaging in a race to the bottom, but by using our powers to create long-term comparative advantage and genuine economic value.
“This is where our policy ideas must stretch further than they perhaps have in the past and I will look to the Council to both advise and challenge us in that regard.”