Update from the Scotland Director - June
Tracy Black gives her thoughts on a busy month in Scottish business and politics.
It feels impossible to reflect on the past month without mentioning the weather – sadly heatwaves are as infrequent in this part of the world as Scotland appearances at a World Cup so we have to enjoy the sun while it lasts!
Sunscreen application aside, our attention has been firmly focussed on some interesting developments in business and politics. One of the most significant events in the past few weeks was the long awaited publication of the SNP’s Scottish Growth Commission report. With a dual purpose to both examine ways to bolster the Scottish economy now and provide an economic blueprint in the event of Scottish Independence, the report was always going to receive a significant level of attention and commentary.
Unfortunately, too much emphasis was placed on the latter of these objectives and the discussion about how to tackle Scotland’s current economic woes was sadly side-lined. Navigating Brexit, boosting productivity and maintaining competitiveness remain the priorities for business – where we need real urgency is kickstarting a debate on how to achieve those goals!
It also wouldn’t be the CBI without mentioning Brexit! On that theme, we partnered with the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh to pull together a roundtable on the impact of Brexit on foreign companies who have already made significant investments in Scotland. We were delighted to welcome Sean McGuire, CBI’s Brussels Director, who talked attendees through European perspectives on Brexit negotiations and Mike Russell, Minister for UK Negotiations and Scotland’s Place in Europe, who gave an overview of the Scottish Government’s position. Key topics discussed included Brexit contingency planning, future EU customs and market access arrangements and foreign direct investment in Scotland.
On matters internal, we’re delighted to welcome John Allan to his new role as CBI President. For those of you on the CBI Scotland council, John will be a familiar face having attended our meeting in March. John has a tremendous background in business across the UK and will be a huge asset to the organisation. He has also assured us that his Scottish roots mean he will be a great advocate for Scotland on the CBI board and beyond. Sadly John’s appointment means that we’ll see a little less of Paul Drechsler, who has done such an incredible job as President over the past few years and now steps down to the role of Vice President. Paul has always been a big hit when he’s visited Scotland and we’re delighted that his expertise isn’t being lost.
I’m also thrilled to update on some fantastic news for the CBI Scotland team. We were delighted to see Colette Cunningham, our long serving events manager, rewarded for services to the community in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Colette, who was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM), has been with the CBI for 30 years and has become one of the best known faces in the Scottish business community. For anyone who has been to a CBI event in those past 30 years, you’ll know that it’s a richly deserved award, even if we do have to salute her in the office these days!
With rumours of an imminent reshuffle, I'm sure next month is set to be another busy one as we look to build relationships with new Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries. If the good weather continues, we might have to invite them round for an ice cream. I remember Alex Salmond was always partial to a Solero!