It has been described as the “greatest structural change to Scottish political engagement since devolution”, but are businesses prepared for the introduction of the Scottish Lobbying Act?
5 April 2018
Update from the Scotland Director
Scotland Director Tracy Black provides an update from the Q1 regional council and reflects on March engagement and events.
With the UK Government and UK negotiators having agreed a way forward on transition, it has predictably been another busy and Brexit heavy month at the CBI. Whatever your view of the road ahead, securing a status quo transition period which avoids a nightmare cliff edge scenario and gives businesses both greater certainty and increased confidence to invest can only be a good thing. It’s also a deeply practical solution and something the CBI has been calling for since the aftermath of the EU Referendum – an intervention based on evidence and common sense rather than ideology.
Taking the politics out of the Brexit issue was something that also came through loud and clear in our Q1 regional council meeting. Council members, including a cohort of new joiners, agreed with the CBI’s broad position around remaining in some form of customs union and to making ‘ease of doing business’ the focus of any response to common frameworks coming out of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
We were delighted to welcome John Foster, the CBI’s Head of Campaigns, to the council meeting to brief members on the latest Brexit developments, as well as provide an overview of our international work – with a focus on insights from China and the US. I thought it was a hugely productive meeting and was greatly encouraged by the level of participation from all attendees, old and new. We were also pleased to take the opportunity to task members with selecting rising stars from within their ranks to join our new Future Leaders Network and give thought to Scotland’s future infrastructure priorities.
One of the most exciting, though admittedly nerve-wracking, aspects of this month was carrying out my first official media duties as CBI Scotland Director. Many of you will have read my interview with Ian McConnell, Business Editor at the Herald. Ian is a hugely experienced journalist, covering a wide range of business issues, and I was delighted to sit down with him to talk through my priorities for the year. The interview largely focussed on pressing ahead with our prosperity agenda, particularly productivity boosting measures, and the need for Scotland to maintain its competitiveness, both with the UK and internationally.
A few days later I was similarly delighted to be invited onto Good Morning Scotland to discuss the importance of International Women’s Day. Improving gender diversity at all levels of business is something I’m incredibly passionate about and, one small slip aside (I said “stem cells” instead of “STEM subjects”!!!), I really enjoyed the experience. I also gave a short interview to Holyrood magazine on business priorities for Brexit. We’ll be looking to ramp up our media engagement in the coming months and it feels good to have taken these initial steps.
In terms of political and stakeholder engagement, it’s also been a particularly packed month with over twenty member meetings and sixteen political engagements. In Scotland, key highlights include a productive meeting with the First Minister on realising Scotland’s export potential, discussing the economy and how to make Scotland a more attractive destination for business with Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and outlining ways to better calibrate Scotland’s education and skills system with the needs of business with Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville. I also met with Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie and Labour’s Shadow Finance Secretary Jackie Baillie.
Further details about these meetings can be found in our regular View from Holyrood round-up and will also soon be available in the Lobbying Register – see our handy guide to complying with the register.
In London, I caught up with the Secretary of State David Mundell, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord Duncan, Christine Jardine MP, as well as senior officials from the Treasury and Cabinet Office to outline member priorities and forthcoming 2018 plans. I also got to chance to sit down with our DG Carolyn Fairbairn to update her on current events in Scotland so she has a good sense of member priorities.
Back at home base in Glasgow, Colette and Sandra are as busy as ever with our events calendar. We had a great evening at Dover House hosted by Scottish Power and Lord Duncan, we launched our Senior Women’s Mentoring Network with Scottish Power at their POWERful Women event and we also partnered with Aegon to launch our new our new pension’s survey report.
With the Easter weekend now over, next up is a round table with our International Director Ben Digby on the 18th April, followed by a not to be missed diversity and inclusion event with Ruth Davidson and Shereen Nanjiani on the 25th. With places at the annual lunch also selling fast, I do hope you can join us at one or more of these exciting events!