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|FSB: Put local economies first|
|Monday, 12 October 2015|
A new Cabinet Secretary for Business should be charged with putting the welfare of local economies at the top of the next Scottish Government’s agenda, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Launching their Scottish Parliament 2016 manifesto, the 19,000 strong membership body has stressed the interdependence between small firms and the communities in which they’re based. The FSB has urged the next administration to make the public sector spend more with the smallest businesses; transform the country’s digital infrastructure; tackle skills shortages; reform business rates; and introduce new legislation to make Scotland a world leader in e-government.
Andy Willox, FSB Scottish policy convenor, said: “Headline economic statistics suggest that Scotland has made up some ground since the downturn. But these figures tell us nothing about the reality of doing business in Portree, the job prospects in Perth or the high street in Paisley.
“If the next administration is committed to a fairer and more prosperous Scotland, they must get under the bonnet of individual communities. They must develop new ways to turn around failing places around and ensure that local economies aren’t perilously dependent on a small number of mobile large employers or industries. We need to build communities that are more resilient to global economic shocks – and that means spreading our risk by broadening and strengthening our small business base.”
The publication – called Resilient Economies, Resilient Communities – argues for a new economic approach which recognises what small businesses bring to an area in addition to jobs and growth. Recognising the soon-to-be expanded portfolio Cabinet Secretary for Finance, the lobby group makes the case for a new Cabinet Secretary for Business – reflecting the long-standing separation between Chancellor and Secretary for State for Business at UK-level.
Andy said: “Scottish small businesses need an advocate at the top table, distinct from the person who holds the country’s purse strings.”
The small enterprise group also says the Scottish public sector should aim, by 2021, to spend ten per cent of its procurement budget with businesses who have fewer than 10 employees – a move they say would bring an additional £250million into the country’s smallest firms every year. They also call for new legislation to be introduced to make it easier for firms to interact with the government online and for serious action to improve Scottish broadband and mobile coverage. The manifesto also condemns public bodies that consolidate their estate and close local buildings – calling for them to face financial penalties.
Andy said: “Evidence shows that procurement spending with smaller firms delivers more for local economies. We believe that asking Scottish public bodies to spend 1 in 10 procurement pounds with micro businesses over the course of next parliament is a realistic and achievable target.”
On digital services and infrastructure he said: “The Scottish public sector’s digital footprint is a mess and we’re falling behind our counterparts elsewhere in the UK. While it is critical that we deliver universal superfast broadband and dramatically improved mobile coverage, we need to make it much easier for firms to pay their taxes, comply with regulation and access public support.”
On supporting communities he added: “Too many Scottish public bodies have closed offices and buildings on high streets and in towns, while others plough on with edge of town developments. We need to see financial penalties for agencies and departments who choose to make short-term savings at the expense of the long-term viability of a local area.”
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