Update from the Scotland Director
New CBI Scotland Director Tracy Black provides an update on the Scottish manufacturing sector, the latest GDP figures and outlines CBI Scotland priorities for the year. She also reflects on a successful parliamentary reception and discusses the latest CBI intervention on Brexit.
Happy new year from the CBI Scotland team. After a tremendously busy 2017, I hope that all of you managed to enjoy a well-earned break over the festive period.
Having now formally taken over from Hugh as CBI Scotland Director, I’d just like to say thanks to all those members that have got in touch to wish me well in the role and who have taken time out of their busy schedules to meet with me over the past few months. Whether it’s at our packed schedule of events, at a roundtable or in a one-to-one meeting, I can’t wait to make sure that I meet each and every one of you in the coming months to hear about your priorities for 2018 and beyond.
As many of you will have seen, 2018 has started with a bang. The CBI has already made its first significant intervention of the year on Brexit, with Director General Carolyn Fairbairn using a speech at Warwick University to call for the UK to remain in a close and comprehensive customs union with the European Union.
These interventions always require careful consideration and planning. They also involve significant consultation with members. While we recognise that there are a range of views on big issues like Brexit, and that members can have competing business priorities, we remain committed to putting politics aside and taking an evidence based approach to the major issues of the day. If you have any thoughts on this or any other recent intervention, please do get in touch as we’d be more than happy to talk through any concerns or take on-board any useful feedback or insights you might wish to share.
While Brexit will no doubt continue to preoccupy our thoughts, it isn’t the only issue on the agenda for Scottish businesses. Addressing skills shortages, encouraging and fostering innovation, meeting the challenge of the Apprenticeship Levy, navigating proposals for a new business rates regime - all have a clear and immediate impact on the many businesses that drive private sector growth in Scotland and on the country’s competitiveness more broadly. If we have one new year’s resolution at CBI Scotland, it’s to remember that there’s more to economic life in our country than Brexit.
Directly related to that point, we also received our first warning of the year about the position of the economy, via the publication of the Scottish Government’s latest GDP figures. While it’s positive to note that the Scottish economy is growing, the pace of growth remains worryingly low and there’s little to suggest that we’re breaking free from the cycle of fragile activity that has plagued us for some time. We're convinced that our twin focus on safeguarding competitiveness and boosting productivity remains the right recipe for addressing weak growth and will continue to work with government and others to push ahead with a ‘prosperity agenda’ that delivers positive change.
Our latest Scottish Industrial Trends Survey also provided a timely temperature check on the performance of the manufacturing sector. There was some positive news with pace of output growth having picked-up in the three months to January and growth in export orders and deliveries stronger than at any time since April 2015. Exporting has continued to be one of the bright spots for the Scottish economy in recent times and while this looks set to continue, the level of optimism was down on the previous quarter - giving us some pause for thought. Making sure we do what we can to encourage companies to realise their exporting potential will be a huge focus in the coming months and we look forward to bringing members together to share key insights and learnings.
One of the things that can help drive growth is taking advantage of and championing Scotland’s legacy in financial services. As someone who has spent most of their career in the sector, I was particularly pleased to welcome the Lord Mayor of the City of London to our recent Scottish Parliament reception. The Lord Mayor spoke about the importance of Scotland in helping to sell the UK financial services sector around the globe, particularly the great strides we've made in fintech. This is an area where Scotland can really excel and we look forward to helping members active in this space to build on their strengths and capitalise on future opportunities.
Finally, I’d like to remind you that we have an exciting programme of events coming up in 2018, with a range of sponsorship opportunities available. We aim to share an event calendar in the next few weeks and look forward to partnering with many of you over the coming year.
In the meantime, lets commit to making 2018 a year where we show the world that Scotland remains a great place to live, work and do business.