Scott Wright: Hopes are rising for better business for Scottish companies

Now there is hope that things will change for the better soon.

The New Deal for Business Group, set up by Prime Minister Humza Yousaf to improve links between the Scottish Government and the private sector, held its second meeting today and appears to have got off to an encouraging start.

At the first meeting, a series of sub-groups, with members from all walks of business, government and business, were set up to make recommendations on how to improve things in five “critical” areas, from the impact of regulation to not – Domestic Tariffs. These will feed into a report to be presented to Mr Yousaf when the Scottish Parliament goes into recess at the end of June.

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There is a lot to do in a short window of time, but time is of the essence when economic conditions continue to be difficult.

dr Poonam Malik, who co-chairs the group with Neil Gray, Secretary of State for Health Economics and is head of investment at the University of Strathclyde, told The Herald there were “positive expectations and hope” for the new body now that relations have settled down under the pressure would have worsened the pandemic.

“With this formation there is a platform and the groups can expect to actually discuss [areas of importance],” she said. “Today, leaders’ discussion was once again positive.”

Business leaders will be particularly excited to see if the group can improve the way legislation is drafted and ultimately impact local businesses, especially after controversies surrounding the deposit-return system and plans to severely limit alcohol advertising. You will be encouraged to Dr. Malik that this will be a key focus.

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“From a business perspective, they’re expected to know in advance and be there when something happens so they can discuss how it’s going to affect them,” she said. She added that companies want to ensure new policies are not “unenacted” and said engagement in the “pre-policy phase” is key.

That message is being reiterated loud and clear by Colin Borland, director for decentralized nations at the Federation of Small Businesses, who has been appointed to the regulatory review subgroup and will represent business there.

“It’s fair to say the group got off to a strong and fast start and there’s a real determination around the table to do things differently,” Borland said.

“The task, of course, is to translate that determination into concrete actions that can be implemented across government.”

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“The sub-group will give us the opportunity to look at some tricky issues, such as how we measure the cumulative impact of regulations on businesses – and small businesses in particular.

“How do we think about the business impact earlier in the development process? How can we map everything that is currently in the pipeline across government that could impact the economy – particularly in those departments further from the business and economic corridors?

“It will also be useful to take a look at how other jurisdictions – here in the UK and beyond – have been tackling the issue and what is working and what isn’t. For example, British Columbia is often cited as a role model – what are they doing right that we could adopt?”

The New Deal for Business Group is obviously still in its infancy, but it’s definitely encouraging to know that the will to do things better is there.

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