FM must act on his promises

Industry chiefs react to FM’s new deal for business

Hussan Lal, president of The Fed in Scotland.
Hussan Lal, president of The Fed in Scotland, has pushed for business consultations on the new deals.

INDUSTRY leaders have welcomed the initial recommendations made by the New Deal for Business Group (NDBG) – but stressed they will ultimately judge ScotGov on the actions it takes as a result.

Creating an independent regulatory review group (RRG), action on non-domestic rates and closer collaboration with business over policy were key elements of the NDBG report to First Minister Humza Yousaf.

And wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray said: “The Scottish Government is listening to business and is committed to taking forward these recommendations.”

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation is due to meet with Gray at the start of this month to share views from a Scottish convenience sector perspective and to discuss how the channel can engage on policy matters.

Chief exec Pete Cheema said: “The new approach to the Scottish Government’s engagement with business represents a positive step forward.

“It is important, however, that government not only continues to listen to business but also reflects this through policies that will help business thrive and create sustainable economic growth.”

Hussan Lal, president of the Fed in Scotland, said the shelving of high-profile ScotGov schemes for alcohol promotion and deposit return showed how well-meaning initiatives could go very wrong if businesses were not properly consulted.

He said: “We welcome the proposal to speak to government at a much earlier stage and to scrutinise data, costs and other practical information when drawing up policies.”

Lal called for changes to business rates relief and for security grants for retailers to help them tackle crime and added: “This New Deal document is a good start but our focus will be on seeing real action by the Scottish Government.”

Scottish Wholesale Association chief exec Colin Smith was also heartened by the recommendations and agreed that ministers needed to learn lessons from DRS and be sure to listen to industry voices.

David Lonsdale, chief executive at the Scottish Retail Consortium.
David Lonsdale has urged the Scottish Government to review business rates as part of the new deal.

He said: “We welcome the new RRG and hope it will ensure businesses are protected from a damaging cumulative impact of legislation and restriction.

“We look forward to working closely with the First Minister to ensure the views and experiences of the food and drink wholesale channel is heard loud and clear by ministers.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the RRG, properly assessing the impact of new policies, having common start dates and clarity over new regulations were all measures businesses could back.

But he warned a change of mindset was needed on business rates to one that encouraged retailers to invest.

He added: “Ultimately, the manner with which new regulations are developed and tax decisions are made, and whether ministers listen and act on the concerns of industry, will define whether the accord marks a step-change in relations.”

Food and Drink Federation Scotland chief exec David Thomson was very supportive of the measures and said: “Ministers must work with us to ensure Scotland’s food and drink industry thrives in the nation’s transition to a Wellbeing Economy.”