Former Skyscanner COO to lead Scottish tech industry review
Skyscanner’s former chief operating officer Mark Logan will lead a new short-life review on how Scotland’s tech industry can help with economic recovery from COVID-19, the Finance Secretary has announced.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Kate Forbes said Scotland’s economic recovery from the impact of coronavirus would require the country to “think radically about embracing digital technologies and low-carbon reforms”.
“Through necessity we have seen sectors embrace new technologies and innovation at a rate and a scale that would ordinarily have taken years. The Scottish Government must play its role in maintaining that speed and momentum, moving at pace towards a new and high-tech low-carbon economy,” she said.
“To realise that vision, we need to catalyse our most innovative emerging sectors, ensure they fulfil their full potential, both as economic propositions in their own right and as sources of innovation for our wider economy. That’s why I’m pleased to announced that from next week Mark Logan, a well-known name, will lead a short-life review of the Scottish tech ecosystem.”
She said Logan had been told to look for “clear, ambitious, deliverable proposals” to allow Scotland to “seize the opportunities that economic recovery will present”.
“He’s passionate about creating an ecosystem to provide opportunities for a new generation of tech talent and I look forward to reading his recommendations,” she said.
Forbes also announced that the second phase of the Small Business Grant scheme was open for applications, meaning businesses may now qualify for grants of £7,500 or £18,750 on all subsequent eligible premises. Additionally, retail, hospitality and leisure properties with a rateable value up to £18,000 that do not qualify for the Small Business Bonus Scheme, may now qualify for Small Business Grants.
“The Scottish Government is delivering a strong package of business support worth around £2.3 billion, and I am pleased that today marks the opening of the second phase of our Business Grants Funding Scheme, increasing the eligibility for multiple properties within the same business,” she said.
“Our actions have been welcomed by the private and third sectors alike, and are making a real difference to people’s lives in Scotland.”
Forbes said she had asked the UK Government to ensure Barnett consequential funding which had been committed to the Scottish Government so far “are not reduced”, and criticised restrictions on borrowing.
“We remain committed to ensure every penny at our disposal will be spent on safe guarding Scotland,” she said. “Without appropriate borrowing powers this is the only source of additional funding available. I would like us to do more, but ultimately we are constrained financially and through our limited devolved powers.
“Without the flexibility to borrow we cannot provide further support to individuals and businesses, which is why the UK Government must now permit further fiscal flexibility to allow us to respond more fully.”
Forbes also responded to claims that the Scottish Government had failed to pass on £155m in consequentials to local governments, confirming that funding will be passed on “in full”.
She labelled media reports that councils had been critical of the government failing to handover the funding as “a storm in a teacup”.
“My letter made clear I was awaiting confirmation of funding from local authorities in terms of their need, that was an agreed position with COSLA. I’ve agreed we will pass on that funding in full, but COSLA should inform how that money is allocated, not members in this chamber,” Forbes said.
“Local authorities in Scotland already have £175m in order to support their coronavirus effort, that money was available to them before local authorities in England got funding.
“Local government, since the beginning of April, has been working on a cost-collection exercise to identify the biggest pressures on them right now. I want to make sure that that money is spent in the areas of the greatest need and I do not think it’s unreasonable to ask for local authorities to complete the cost collection exercise they promised me two weeks ago, in order to determine how that money can best be spent.”