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Holyrood update: CBI Scotland

Latest news on CBI Scotland political engagement through July and August.

Summer usually means a wind-down of political engagement as politicians north and south of the border head off on their well-earned summer breaks. In spite of their absence, the CBI engagement bandwagon rolled on as we undertook a packed programme of political activity over the last few weeks.

Just before the Scottish Parliament headed into recess, the First Minister announced a surprise Cabinet reshuffle which saw Derek Mackay take on an extended brief – one that includes former Economy Secretary Keith Brown’s responsibilities, alongside his existing finance focus.

Derek Mackay was quick off the mark with his statement of intent in the Herald setting out a confident pro-business agenda. CBI Scotland met him soon after the reshuffle to discuss key business priorities such as incentivising business investment – including on vital infrastructure – as well as the importance of a competitive tax regime and additional support for upskilling.

Trade and investment minister Ivan McKee is a new appointment. The team met him earlier this month, along with CBI China Chief Guy Dru Drury, where we highlighted the importance of honing-in on companies that are already involved in exports and can benefit from further support. We also discussed the CBI’s international network and the political support international offices, like Guy’s in Beijing, can provide.

Business and skills Minister Jamie Hepburn also visited the CBI Scotland office this summer to discuss his extended brief, which now includes business, industry and manufacturing. We talked about the challenges facing businesses in Scotland and the importance of upskilling and retraining to employers.

Following the UK Government’s Chequers summit, the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, called a business roundtable in Edinburgh to outline key outcomes from the discussion. While there was broad support for the fact that the government had reached an agreement, concerns were raised about need for further detail on areas like trade in services, mutual recognition in financial services and immigration requirements for Scotland.

Brexit was also high on the agenda when Mari and Gregor met with officials from various UK Government departments in Whitehall last month. A marathon session included trips to the Scotland Office, the Department for Exiting the EU, the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Wide ranging conversations included discussion of key issues such as the role of UK Industrial Strategy in Scotland, the Apprenticeship Levy and the importance of the UK internal market.

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