Scotland aims to back ‘digital revolution’ in long-term economic plan

Decade-long agenda looks to help meet the challenges and opportunities of net zero and promote a ‘culture of delivery’ in government

Credit: Max Pixel

The Scottish Government’s 10-year plan to transform the country’s economy has a keen focus on innovation and technology, as well as helping businesses make the most out of digital platforms.

Published this week after months of work, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation sets out policies and actions across five core programmes: entrepreneurial people and culture; new market opportunities; productive businesses and regions; skilled workforce; a fairer and more equal society. 

A sixth programme aims to develop a “culture of delivery” to support the five other areas of work. 

As part of the productive businesses and regions programme, the Scottish Government will create a Digital Productivity fund which will provide backing for businesses to implement new technologies. The programme also includes the creation of a Centre for Workplace Transformation, the remit of which will be to “support experimentation in ways of working post-pandemic”.

The skilled workforce agenda, meanwhile, will look to “embed access to entrepreneurial learning in schools and colleges”. A major objective will be to ensure employers can get the most out of the “digital revolution”, as well as “the transition to net zero”.

The new market opportunities programme will also focus on the implications and opportunities of Scotland’s environmental targets, including the establishment of an investor panel – chaired by first minister Nicola Sturgeon – which will aim to “grasp the opportunities of the Just Transition to net zero.” This panel will be focused on “attracting investment” and promoting Scotland as an “innovative test bed for new technologies and markets”.

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The entrepreneurial people and culture section of the plan proposes the creation of a chief entrepreneurship officer for the Scottish Government who will “work in partnership with industry and investors to drive forward our ambitions” and help foster “a culture in which entrepreneurship is encouraged, supported and celebrated, and where Scotland is recognised as one of the best countries in the world to start and to grow a business”.

As part of the fairer and more equal society programme, the government will “apply fair work conditionality to grants, requiring payment of real living wage, and channels for effective workers’ voice” as well as delivering “sectoral fair work agreements in areas of low pay, in partnership with industry and trades unions, that deliver payment of the real living wage, better security of work, and wider fair work first standards”.

Scotland’s intentions to create a “culture of delivery”, meanwhile, will include the launch of a “programme to radically transform the way in which the public sector in Scotland provides support for workers and businesses”.

Launching the plan at the Michelin Innovation Parc in Dundee, Scottish Government finance secretary Kate Forbes said the government needed to be “bold, ruthless and laser focused”. 

“We all know the challenges of our day – the short term and the long term – but through the tumultuous times of the past, Scotland has pioneered solutions, created jobs and established highly successful businesses,” she said. “The opportunities of decarbonisation, new technologies and successful industries are far greater than the challenges. This is a unique moment and we are ready, willing and able to lead the way and ensure Scotland capitalises on the opportunity.”

But the Scottish Trades Union Congress gave the plan a tepid response, which general secretary Roz Foyer describing it as more of a “a strategy for economic status quo than economic transformation.” 

“The National Strategy for Economic Transformation has a sprinkling of good ideas and we have successfully argued for some strong lines on the importance of fair work, decent pay and the role of trade unions, but overall, it is a missed opportunity to address the challenges before us and make real, transformational change,” she added. “The main engine of the Scottish economy is the foundational economy. Unsurprisingly it is also the biggest employer. It encompasses transport, retail, energy generation, distribution and importantly education and public services. So, at the heart of the NSET should have been a strategy to increase pay and improve terms and conditions in these sectors. Investing in public services offers huge opportunity to support sustainable growth while tackling poverty and inequality.”


Sam Trendall

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