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Lifelong learning fund proposed as SCDI launches new blueprint for economic growth in Scotland

Could a lifelong learning fund be a key driver of Scottish economic success? SCDI believes it could.
Could a lifelong learning fund be a key driver of Scottish economic success? SCDI believes it could.

A new lifelong learning fund allowing people to dip into a “skills wallet” every now and then is among the ideas proposed by a leading business group for creating a more prosperous Scotland.

The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) also wants to see the creation of “innovation neighbourhoods”, where businesses, centres of learning and the voluntary and public sectors collaborate in a “shared mission” to deliver economic success.

SCDI’s blueprint for transforming the economy – its new Making a Good Living report — was unveiled by Shonaig Macpherson, the organisation’s president, during an online launch event today (June 8).

Shonaig MacPherson

Sara Thiam, chief executive, SCDI, said the Covid-19 crisis had highlighted key messages.

She added: “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our economy for the better.

“The pandemic has shown us what can be achieved when organisations across the public, private and civil society align behind a common goal and shared values, and SCDI is unique in uniting all sectors and parts of Scotland to create a better economy for all.”

Key economic challenges

SCDI’s 10-year strategy document addresses key economic challenges identified by Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander (FoA) Institute.

These include Scotland’s slow population growth and ageing society, as well as the transition to net-zero carbon emissions and the impact of technological change.

FoA also highlighted slow growth rates and low productivity, social inequalities exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and a need for policy planning with longer-term objectives.

SCDI chief executive Sara Thiam says there is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to transform the economy for the better.

The Making a Good Living report says business and academia must work together with government and civil society if Scotland is to prosper in the global economy, and build a more inclusive and sustainable society.

SCDI says its vision of economic success is driven by “productive, purpose-led businesses, the voluntary sector and learning institutions that trade profitably and productively working together to solve challenges for people and the planet”.

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The business group wants Scotland to become:

  • “A ‘living lab’ for innovation, where innovations are generated collaboratively by businesses, academia, the voluntary sector and government.
  • “A nation that commits and invests in our lifelong learning – developing and harnessing people’s skills at all stages of their lives.
  • “A healthy place to live and work – where healthy living is designed in and our quality of life, work and connectivity right across Scotland are unique selling points to retain, develop, and attract people and businesses.”


As well as the proposed lifelong learning fund and “innovation neighbourhoods”, the report’s 12 recommendations include:

  • “Investing in Scotland’s strengths through measures including carbon pricing.
  • “The creation of ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’, with access to key amenities no more than 20 minutes away.”
  • Investment in social and green spaces, as well as infrastructure that supports healthy lives and 500 new remote-working hubs.
  • Making Scotland “a global hub for purposeful businesses that solve the problems of people and planet profitably.”

In addition, the report calls on the Scottish and UK governments to “work with stakeholders” to make urgent progress on a digitalisation acceleration policy, and
securing the financial sustainability of tertiary education to retain its “world-class” status.

Other recommendations include a local governance review and bringing forward a Circular Economy Bill to “advance Scotland’s ambitions”.

lifelong learning
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “I am delighted that SCDI shares the Scottish Government’s view that seizing Scotland’s economic potential, creating high quality jobs and supporting business’ long-term recovery from the pandemic should be a national endeavour.

“We must be ambitious and grasp this opportunity for economic transformation. Over the coming months and years the Scottish Government will work in partnership with businesses, trade unions and workforces to deliver greater, greener and fairer prosperity.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “We welcome SCDI’s blueprint and we will consider its recommendations carefully.

“Recovering from Covid is the UK Government’s absolute focus, working with the Scottish Government and other partners.”

SCDI will – following consultation – publish further detail on a proposed action plan, including who should lead or support on recommendations, together with milestones and target dates to track progress.

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