Working together for a sustainable and inclusive recovery

It was a real pleasure to address one of the BCCG’s SHeconomy discussions in October, reflecting on the role of women in leadership and setting out the Scottish Government’s economic response to the global pandemic. 

At the core of that response is a firm commitment to protect and support jobs, and to deliver a sustainable recovery based on a Just Transition with good quality, green jobs. 

Our ability to do this will depend fundamentally on working together with our close partners across the EU on our business priorities. In Germany, these include renewable energy and hydrogen, space, AI and healthcare.

Scotland is a responsible global citizen and proud European nation. We know that by working with Germany and the 16 Länder in areas such as health resilience, green technologies and the Wellbeing Economy, we can more quickly and effectively find solutions to the challenges we face.

At the same time, we are also preparing for the end of the EU-Exit transition period on 31 December. We greatly appreciate the support offered by the BCCG, including partnering with Scottish Development International on 2 December, for example, to co-host the Beyond Brexit webinar. 

Let me underline that the people of Scotland did not vote to leave the EU. Whilst we still await the outcome of the negotiations, we believe the consequence will be to take Scotland out of the Single Market and the Customs Union and to end freedom of movement – both wrong in principle and damaging to jobs and living standards. It will also affect our ability to contribute to important EU agendas, such as the development of the hydrogen economy using Scotland’s vast renewable resources

We are doing everything we can to support business readiness in Scotland, and remain absolutely committed to safeguarding, as far as possible, the interests of individuals – including EU nationals – businesses and communities.

Work is being taken forward rapidly in areas such as employability support, workforce development, training, transport and environmental law. We continue to liaise closely with banks and are taking steps to protect trade and supply chains and reduce the risks of disruption to goods and people crossing borders.

A particular area of focus is ensuring businesses in Scotland have the information they need to continue operating effectively after 31 December. Along with our partners across Scotland, we are providing tailored information and advice to businesses likely to be particularly impacted, including on trade, regulatory changes, EU workers and travel. All companies have access to an EU-Exit helpline, as well as self-help checklists, live webinars and the web portal.

The Scottish Government‘s wide-ranging domestic policies to help people, businesses and communities recover from the compound shock of COVID-19 and EU-Exit include almost £1 billion of investment in new capital projects, transport, the rural economy, culture and heritage.

However, our ambitions go much further. Scotland was one of the first countries to declare a climate emergency, and we have laid out ambitious legislation that commits us to net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045 at the latest. Our 2019 Climate Change Act enshrined in law our commitment to a just transition to net-zero, one in which wellbeing, fair work and social justice are prioritised and no-one is left behind.

Our net-zero ambitions are at the heart of our action on jobs, skills, procurement, finance and investment. This is reflected in our recently released Inward Investment Plan, which seeks opportunities aligned with our values around net-zero, fair work, sustainable and inclusive growth. 

By focusing on the wellbeing of our citizens, rather than simply on GDP, we can increase the chances that major technological and economic changes bring benefits to the greatest number of people across society, bringing fulfilling work and placing greater value on activity beneficial to the health of society and of the planet.

The Green Jobs Fund will invest £100 million to help businesses create new, green jobs, and the National Transition Training Fund will support people to retrain.

Recognising the hugely damaging effect the pandemic has had on our young people, and underpinned by the belief that young people are an asset to their communities, the Scottish Government’s Young Person Guarantee will ensure youth unemployment will not be the legacy of the COVID-19 crisis.

Everyone aged between 16 and 24 in Scotland will have the opportunity to access support to help them into work, university or college, an apprenticeship, training, fair employment including work experience, or a formal volunteering programme.

The Scottish National Investment Bank has now also officially opened for business, with its first major investment in the Glasgow-based laser and quantum technology company M Squared Lasers, which has an office in Berlin-Adlershof.

The bank is being capitalised by the Scottish Government with £2 billion over ten years, and will play a crucial role in supporting Scotland’s transition to net-zero and harnessing innovation to enable our people to flourish.

This is a rare opportunity not to go back to how things were, but to address together with a renewed impetus many of the challenges we face. A good example is COP26 in Glasgow next year, an opportunity to promote Scotland’s growing reputation as a global leader on climate change, and to contribute to what we know will be a vitally important conference at this crucial time.

In doing so, we hear the clear ambition of the people of Scotland to retain close links with European Member States, to continue to meet high European standards which serve us so well, and to re-join the EU at the earliest possible moment. This is the path we believe represents the best future for Scotland. And, consistent with that ambition, we look forward to working closely with our German friends, in the meantime and beyond.


Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture