27 February 2018

  |  CBI Scotland


Update from the Scotland Director

Tracy Black reflects on Brexit, exporting and the need to engage better with the business leaders of the future. 

Update from the Scotland Director

If January was all about Brexit, then February has been about meetings and events. Earlier this month I gave my first keynote speech as Director of CBI Scotland to the Scotland Policy Conference in Edinburgh. The topic, Challenges and Opportunities for Scottish Business Post-Brexit, couldn’t be more timely as we emerge from another series of high profile Brexit speeches. From a CBI perspective, it was a great opportunity to explain our position on remaining in a customs union whilst hearing from others about their views and priorities for the way forward. My main takeaway from the event was a real honesty and pragmatism about the immediate challenges we face as we get closer to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, even among those who remain particularly upbeat about the potential opportunities presented by Brexit.

Earlier this month, and very much Brexit related, we were delighted to meet with Shuichi Akamatsu, the Minister for Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Japan in London, and his colleagues from the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh. As part of our productivity focused ‘Prosperity Agenda’, one of our key priorities for 2018 is understanding how Scottish companies can better take advantage of exporting to international markets. In a fascinating and lively discussion with Mr Akamatsu, we spoke about Scotland’s attractiveness to Japanese investors and how Scottish firms could better access and establish themselves within the Japanese market. As you might expect, with more than 1,000 Japanese owned business operating in Britain, Brexit remains a key concern. Many Japanese businesses view it as both a significant risk and potential barrier to future investment. We greatly value these kind of dialogues and we plan to have similar engagement with trade representatives from China, India and the USA over the coming months – look out for further details on how you can get involved in our forthcoming exporting and internationalisation events.

In other positive news, I’m delighted to announce the launch of our new CBI Scotland Under 35 Network. As someone who has been a mentor to a number of young professionals over the years, I think it’s really important for up and coming business leaders to have a forum to meet, share their experiences and learn from each other. It’s also crucial for organisations like the CBI to make sure that we don’t just engage at executive level – attitudes to business and expectations about the world of work are ever changing and we have to make sure we remain in step with tomorrow’s influencers and decision-makers. While networking will be an important part of the process, we’re also keen for the Under 35 Network to be more than a talking shop. That’s why we will actively encourage members of the Under 35 Network to feed into and shape CBI policy – that’s something that’s worked well in London and Northern Ireland and we want to replicate that success here in Scotland.

With an eye to education and skills, I’m also pleased to share an update from the Scottish Graduate School for Social Sciences (SGSSS). They’re running a very interesting internship for doctoral students which could be of real benefit to any business across Scotland. The CBI has long advocated increasing interaction between business and education and while we’ve tended to focus on secondary schools and apprenticeships, it’s also important to see this taking place in the higher education sector. This apprenticeship offers businesses the opportunity to benefit from highly skilled doctoral students with first class critical thinking and methodological skills. If this could be of interest to your company, we will happily to put you in contact with the programme convenors. Access to skills is a hot topic in Scotland and we need to encourage as much ‘on-the-job’ training as possible to make our workforce fit for the future.  

You’ll also note that we have included a short briefing note on business rates in this month’s update. It remains a crucial issue for businesses across Scotland and we are always keen to hear from members about their views on the issue. We have also just launched a public sector procurement survey and would be keen to hear your thoughts on the current state of play in the public sector market. If you have views on either of these topics, or want to discuss any other key issues, then please do let us know.