With just five days to go until the 2015 general-election, Scottish Council for Development and Industry Highlands and islands director Fraser Grieve takes a look at what there is on offer for businesses in the north
Why does it take a UK worker five days to do what a French one does in four?
And why do so few Scottish companies invest in research and development, and just 15 account for more than 50% of that investment?
Finally, why do 60% of all Scottish exports come from just 100 companies?
Productivity, innovation and internationalisation – these are the questions of the Scottish economy we must address if we are to deliver long term economic prosperity, and these are the questions SCDI is looking for the political parties to answer.
The economy has rightly been a key feature of the campaign and forms an important part of every party’s manifesto as they look to show how they can create a more prosperous and successful economy, while highlighting their different approaches to achieving that goal.
So, how do the parties stand on the key areas and what measures do they propose to improve our competitiveness?
We see that all of the main parties welcome proposals for further City Deals for Aberdeen and Inverness.
These deals give city regions the powers and resources they need to drive investment, deliver infrastructure and meet the particular economic needs and challenges they face.
On infrastructure, we have a variety of proposals – from the Labour Party’s plan to assess how best to meet our needs through an independent National Infrastructure Commission, to the Conservatives’ general plan to spend £110billion, but without any details as to where.
The SNP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all mention their support for the HS2 high-speed rail project and a desire to see it benefit Scotland. The SNP has pressed for an HS2 Scottish link to be delivered as a priority.
On our air connectivity, we have the SNP pressing for a reduction in air passenger duty.
Labour is committed to making a swift decision on airport capacity after the Davies Commission delivers its recommendations, but not to following them.
The Conservatives talk of improving our airports, yet give no detail, and the Lib Dems assert their opposition to expanding Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
SCDI strongly believes that new capacity is needed and we must ensure Scottish airports can gain access to and through London in order to support growth in exports and support tourism.
We welcome pledges from all the main parties to support innovation – from the SNP’s plans to foster a culture of innovation and support a network of innovation centres, to the Conservatives’ and Lib Dems’ plans for catapult centres.
The Lib Dems also talk of doubling innovation and research spending, while Labour aims to create a long-term framework to provide the stability and continuity that companies and others need to succeed.
Across the board there is welcome talk of how to support businesses and job creation
Whatever the outcome of the election it will be vital for whichever party or parties form the next government to deliver on the commitment of more powers to Scotland, and deliver the policies and infrastructure which will deliver for the long term.