‘Put pedal to the metal’ on economic promises, Sturgeon told

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Scottish ministers have been urged to put “pedal to the metal” to deliver on economic plans for the coming year.

Measures to boost the economy set out in the programme for government were welcomed by business organisations and trade unions but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was warned the devil would be in the detail.

Ms Sturgeon unveiled plans to invest an additional £7 billion in schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026.

She has promised legislation for a Scottish National Investment Bank as well as a “major new drive to increase exports”, with a national export plan to be published in the spring.

Also announced was a Non-Domestic Rates Bill to implement the remaining recommendations from the Barclay Review on business rates, including a  move to a three year valuation cycle.

Further plans are for a national retraining partnership to help workers and businesses prepare for future challenges.

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Today the First Minister underlined her ambition for the Scottish economy. But to turn these dreams into reality, we’ll need to see every member of her Ministerial team put the pedal to the metal.

“Increased infrastructure spending should make Scotland a better place to do business. But we need to ensure that we squeeze every drop of value from this taxpayer spending with new efforts to help Scottish small firms win public contracts. Further, new roads are of little use if we’re not maintaining the ones we already have.

“A new drive to upskill and retrain Scotland’s workforce is a smart move, which should prepare the country for the future, whatever’s around the corner.”

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “This is a positive set of recommendations but as ever the devil is in the detail.

“The commitment of new funding to support exporting is welcome. Scotland has a proud legacy when to comes to exporting but we can and should do more.

“We’re also pleased the First Minister has listened to our joint call with the STUC to make upskilling and retraining a priority.”

Grahame Smith, STUC general secretary, also welcomed the focus on skills, as well as the announcement on business rates.

“We must move away from an approach which sees business rates relief as the beginning and the end of our support for business,” he said.

“We desperately need a proper strategy that supports communities and tackles the growing crisis on our high streets.

“The role of the Scottish National Investment Bank is important in this respect, but will require strong governance with a clear role for civic society, trade unions, and communities to ensure the success of this institution.”

Liz Cameron, director of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Exporting continues to remain a key pillar of Scotland’s economic growth strategy and the business community will be upbeat to hear the emphasis placed by the First Minister on expanding Scottish exports.

“We have long called for increasing digital & infrastructure investment, making sure every business, home and consumer is connected, physically and digitally.

“Businesses across Scotland will welcome the Government’s intention to increase infrastructure investment to internationally competitive levels.”

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