Transforming Scotland’s Economy

Can we transform Scotland’s economy and return to economic growth while also reaching net zero by 2045?

With the state of the economy and the public finances set to dominate politics over the next 12 months, in March 2023 Holyrood brought together a range of experts to examine the difficult decisions that lay ahead.

We were joined by senior ministerial representatives of both the Scottish and UK governments as we explored whether there is likely to be a growing divergence between spending choices being made at Holyrood and Westminster and the unprecedented cost-of-living crisis being faced by families across the UK.

Both governments were experiencing huge budgetary pressures, with the Scottish Government announcing income tax rises for everyone earning more than £43,662 and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt lowering the threshold for the 45 per cent additional rate of income tax from £150,000 to £125,140.

This came as the UK endured its worst industrial unrest since the 1990s, and economists warned that the UK was likely to face the worst recession and slowest recovery of any leading developed nation in the following year.

As such, at our event we looked at whether Scotland could avoid a return to austerity by examining the spending choices of both the UK and Scottish Governments and considering how we could:

  • Grow Scotland’s economy in 2023 through increasing productivity, broadening our export markets and enhancing our entrepreneurial and skills base.
  • Truly transform our economy to put Scotland in the best possible position to capitalise on the economic dividends of a low-carbon future and embed circularity at its core.
  • Alleviate the cost-of-living crisis and poverty in Scotland by creating a fairer and more equal society.
  • Meet Scotland’s net zero targets and build a resilient, future-proof economy against a backdrop of economic uncertainty.
Ivan McKee Headshot
As well as being a politician, Ivan's career has involved a number of senior roles in manufacturing and business; managing companies in the UK as well as Poland, Finland, Croatia and Bosnia.

While the Scottish economy is in the midst of post-Brexit, post-Covid stagnation and cost-of-living crisis, we are also now on the brink of colossal economic change and transition. These changes are a necessary response to Scotland's strategic challenges in a global economy and the realities of climate change and the depreciation of our natural environment. 

In this session, we will hear from ministerial representatives from the UK and Scottish governments on their visions for Scotland's economy and how we navigate both the short, medium and long-term challenges we face. 

The Scottish Government’s Advisory Council for Economic Transformation sought to identify the challenges the Scottish economy faces and the weaknesses it has in addressing them. That is the mission statement of the strategy that derived from it – the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

But did the strategy identify the right priorities? Was it based on correct or flawed assumptions? Was it ambitious enough for Scotland? What, if anything, did it miss out?

Our exemplary panel of experts discuss this and more as we determine how best to grow Scotland’s economy while making our society wealthier, fairer and greener. 

Scotland’s cost-of-living crisis follows a dramatic increase in inflation precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and prolonged austerity. The current crisis in Scotland is so chronic that the choice for 20% of low-income families in Scotland isn’t even between heating and eating anymore, as used to be the political cliche - because they cannot afford to do either.

But this situation is not brand new. In 2019, the Resolution Foundation found that child poverty in Scotland was going in the wrong direction despite the imposition of statutory targets. 

In this session, we will discuss the roots of Scotland’s current economic challenges and what we can do to eradicate poverty and want in modern Scotland and to deliver the prosperous, healthy country where nobody gets left behind we all want to see. 

The UK was the first G7 country to implement statutory net zero targets, building on its reputation for international climate leadership. By the end of the UK Presidency of COP26, over 90% of the world’s GDP had committed to net zero targets, further cementing this leadership role.

A year later, however, it was unclear if the Prime Minister would attend COP27. And in Scotland, a country lauded for the world-leading climate targets it chose to enshrine in law, the Committee on Climate Change has criticised the government for missing annual emissions-reduction targets so often that they are on the verge of becoming meaningless.

In the midst of war in Ukraine, the ‘cost-of-living’ crisis and political turbulence in the UK, the pursuit of net zero has lost momentum. If the UK and Scotland are to maintain their position as global climate leaders, this cannot be allowed to deteriorate further.

In this session, we will discuss the need to prioritise the climate and nature crises in our approach to economic growth.

    Event Details