A ‘different way’ of taking care of business

Report on government relations with business was published just as a controversial marine protection policy was scrapped

  • A ‘different way’ of the Scottish government working with business and a ‘new deal’ between them have been forged in the heat of some unusually robust and open criticisms of problems that have been allowed to build up.
  • After the ditching of high profile policies, Scottish ministers have agreed to work with business on the practicalities and cost of reforms at a much earlier stage of planning them.
  • The ‘new deal’ process has created a forum to press for radical reform of business rates, and to voice scepticism about putting well-being into the operations of private firms.

Business is back in St Andrew’s House, and it has wrung some commitments out of Scottish government ministers, in a bid to ensure that it can’t be so easily excluded again.

A review of relations with Scotland’s business communities was published in the pre-Holyrood-recess wash-up of announcements. It was at the same time as Mairi McAllan, the cabinet secretary responsible for the proposals on protecting Scotland’s marine environment, was filing those plans in the dustbin of ignominy.

Humza Yousaf and Mairi McAllan whose proposals on protecting Scotland’s marine environment have been forced to file those plans in the dustbin of ignominy.

The highly controversial Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) plan was the latest in an unhappy list of policies which have failed to survive contact with a) business b) reality or c) both.

You’ll recall the deposit return scheme (DRS). Further back in the early days of Humza Yousaf’s premiership, he saw off the plans to ban advertising of alcohol.

The National Care Service met opposition on many fronts, and the private business bit of care provision was only one to raise its concerns. That’s being paused and re-thought as well.

  • Scottish government scraps marine conservation plan
  • Bottle scheme problems reported before UK rejection
  • Small shops ‘risk closure’ under alcohol plans

Mr Yousaf acknowledged that the leadership contest had made it clear that all was far from well in relations with business. Some of those whose job is to engage from the private sector will privately admit that the contest was an excellent opportunity to get a hearing.

So an early commitment was a New Deal with Business, to be shaped by a new cabinet secretary, Neil Gray, arriving in the cabinet room with more vigour and enthusiasm than some of his more experienced and battle-scarred colleagues.

The outcome of that engagement includes those commitments to engage with business before future policies are put out to consultation, and to carry out more robust assessments of the impact of proposed changes.

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