Ian Blackford: ‘No animosity whatsoever’ between Scottish Government and business
Former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said there is “no animosity” between the Scottish Government and the business community.
Blackford, now a business ambassador to First Minister Humza Yousaf, was speaking ahead of the publication of a new report which calls for the creation of a decision-making council to help drive the Scottish Government’s industrial strategy.
Commissioned by Blackford on behalf of the SNP Westminster group, the report says Scotland must harness the strengths of both its higher education and green energy sectors to help generate economic growth.
Published today, Roadmap for a Scottish Green Industrial Strategy was led by Sir Martin Donnelly, former permanent secretary at the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and Professor Dominic Houlder, adjunct professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School.
Blackford said it was important to “change the record” on how the Scottish economy has fared but using the example of green energy, said there was no difficulties in the working relationship between the government and big business.
He said: “They want the system to work for them. There are legitimate questions around process, around planning, the regulation of the energy market. We all need to pull together to make these things work. That’s what they want – that’s what we want. But they want to do that in a constructive spirit. There is no animosity there whatsoever.”
The report’s key recommendation is that a Scottish Industrial Strategy Council be set up which would report to the first minister and include government ministers, the chief economist, chief entrepreneur, chair of the Scottish National Investment Bank and representatives from higher education, business, finance and labour organisations.
Those behind the report were keen to stress that the strategy council would be able to take decisions and follow them up rather than simply working in an advisory capacity.
Blackford said: “There’s a very specific recommendation that we build upon the work that the Scottish Government has already done, that the first minister establishes a strategic council that meets on a quarterly basis in Edinburgh and around Scotland with the right people around the table.”
Asked if the Scottish Government had lost the trust of the business community, Blackford said: “We found that every single institution that we approached and consulted with over the last few months was willing to talk with us. Every institution we met with wants to play a part in delivering this.”
On whether the relation between the SNP and the Scottish Greens had damaged the relationship between the Scottish Government and business community, Blackford added: “I can say that in every single meeting we had, that wasn’t a question that was raised once.”
And asked whether oil and gas exploration would play any part in Scotland's future economic strategy, Blackford said: “What we’re talking about is a roadmap to the future. Of course, the Scottish Government has a desire to get to net zero in 2045. The oil and gas industry is important and there is that transition into the future but, of course, we still need oil and gas today as part of our energy mix.
“That is going to be a matter for the Scottish Government and in the interim, it’s a matter which is reserved. There will be detailed discussions on these matters through this council when it’s established.”
Professor Houlder said Scotland was on a “burning platform”, a limited window of opportunity to capitalise on green energy which wouldn’t be open forever.
He said: “To deliver higher-value growth and increase productivity, Scotland needs to focus on fundamental economic building blocks where it has a competitive advantage. Developing and leveraging those competitive advantages – actual and potential – can enhance the broader economy and society.
“Scotland’s research universities and alternative energy sector stand out as two such fundamental building blocks, both of which are actually or potentially world-class. Those solid foundations are the perfect place upon which to build a Scottish economic success story.”