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Robert Burns and the Scottish economy – Professor Murray Pittock, University of Glasgow 

A study of Robert Burns and the Scottish Economy, funded by the Scottish Government (Economic Development directorate) in 2018-19, will assess how much the worldwide fascination with Scotland’s national bard is supporting Scottish business and jobs.

Led by Professor Murray Pittock at the University of Glasgow, the research will also look at the potential for Burns to further support Regional Inclusive Growth.

While there have been studies of the economic impact of cultural industries before, this is believed to be a world first in carrying out a thorough assessment of the economic value of a global icon. An estimated 9.5 million people attend Burns Suppers worldwide every year, and the poet himself is an important component of Scotland’s national brand. An earlier outline study done for the BBC in 2003 indicated that Burns was worth £157M. Since then his brand has been significantly enhanced by an increasing global profile and enhanced visitor facilities, while the market for Scottish produce has substantially expanded in the past fifteen years.

Tourism and food and drink are two of the three largest industries in Scotland, which in their turn reflect a highly visible national Scottish brand in the global marketplace, a brand which owes an enormous debt to Scotland’s 18th and 19th century history. We need to understand the relationship between our culture and our economy more fully in order to maximise our already world-leading position.

Within the UK, culture and heritage tourism in Scotland attracts more visitors than anywhere outside London. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is second only to Shakespeare among UK writers’ museums in its visitor numbers.

But if Burns is a global figure, he is also intensely a local one, a poster boy for Regional Inclusive Growth. Burns has been seen as the no. 1 reason that people visit Ayrshire, and four of the houses he stayed in the Dumfries area are still standing. The project is working with the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP), the emerging Ayrshire Regional Partnership and local businesses such as FreshAyr to both measure and maximize the economic impact of Burns in regional terms.

The project submitted its interim report to the Scottish Government on St Andrews Day, which examined the role of Burns in Tourism, Festivals, Food, Drink and Retail, as well as indicators of his value to local house prices and community wellbeing. The preliminary report addressed issues of Regional Inclusive Growth, which ranged from the future profile of Prestwick Airport to the Taste of Arran scheme and the linkage of Burns to food tourism. The final report, due by September 2019, will account for these areas in more depth and will also explore the value of Burns to education, publishing and music as well as providing a model for valuing Burns as a major contributing brand to the Scottish economy in terms of his function in raising the country’s profile overseas.

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28/11/18
Pushing the Boundaries of the Possible – Rhetoric or Reality? It’s Our Choice – Robert Pollock, Chair of Economic Development Association of Scotland

Recognising the limitations of the possible is a fact of life for economic development professionals. We operate in a complex web of multi-scalar interdependencies and relations which are economic, political, technological, social and, increasingly, environmental. By way of example, the UK’s model of capitalism is by international standards one of the more liberal forms. In turn, the choices and actions of economic development professionals are circumscribed by this institutional reality. As one wit observed at a recent regional development conference, you may be able to choose the topping of your pizza, even stretch the dough, but at the end of the day it’s still pizza.

However, such limitations are only one side of the coin. Over my two decades of working in economic development, I am amazed at the scope of possibilities to make our communities, our regions, our nation, better places. Economic development professionals have continually proven themselves to be agents of positive change by working with the tools at their disposal, whilst innovating and seeking out new ones.

The economic development process is never a stable one. It is a process contingent on political intent and the fluidity of markets and industries. Recently, policy emphasis has been placed on Regional Economic Partnerships and Inclusive Growth. Co-ordinating economic development at a regional level has many advantages in relation to labour markets, asset utilisation, infrastructure etc. Moreover, the intention of addressing the inequitable social and spatial consequences of the UK’s model of capitalism is welcome. A new organising and conceptual framework is emerging which has evident merits.

As with every new framework, it has to respond to the reality in which it is emerging. All economic scales are important; local, regional, Scottish, UK and international. Therefore, we need to get better at responding to the interplay of these scales in our policy making and delivery. Too many regional development policies are “introverted” (a word used recently in this context by Marc Lemaitre, DG Regio’s Director General) and give insufficient cognisance to linking regional assets to broader industrial, economic and institutional forces and cycles that determine their utilisation. In addition, an increasing focus on Scotland’s regional heterogeneity is notable. This is welcome given that some regions are relatively prosperous and integrated whilst others are markedly more disadvantaged and peripheral. If we aspire to spatial cohesion and equity in Scotland, there is a requirement to transfer resources and capacity and stimulate demand accordingly. Regional diversity necessitates differing responses. In this regard, the formation of the South of Scotland agency represents a welcome development.

Finally, as an economic development community – local and national government, the enterprise and skills agencies, and the third sector – we need to co-evolve. There is a requirement for us to further develop the capacity for transformational change in uncertain times. EDAS is playing its part in this collective task through CPD, conferences, networking events, briefings and a pilot Community of Practice. In a small networked country like ours, we should all push the boundaries of the possible.

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13/11/18
Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills

The Scottish Government wants to work with local authorities, businesses

and others to grow a network of Regional Economic Partnerships. the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, Derek Mackay set out the argument for developing strong regional economies in the very first blog on this SCRIG site. There is a clear link between a strong regional distribution of economic activity and positive social impact: something which has informed this government’s fundamental position on using the economy to drive inclusive economic growth.

So, if that is the goal, how can Regional Economic Partnerships help? First, I think we need to look back at the way they have been created. Regional Partnerships draw on the experience of City and Regional growth deals: they see the benefits that can arise when local authorities work together with one another, with our enterprise and skills agencies, universities and colleges, the third sector and the private sector. These deals have already seen the SG commit over £1.125 billion to grow the Scottish economy, enabling creation of over 60,000 jobs, and supporting skills programmes, infrastructure and innovation.

Having been able to achieve such positive progress, it is only logical that we extend that thinking and encourage regional stakeholders to come together and develop regional economic plans, with shared outcomes, responsibilities, and alignment of priorities and resources. To do this we need to listen to the diverse voices partnership working brings. Using the Inclusive Growth Diagnostic, and coupling it with local expertise and knowledge, allows Regional Economic Partnerships to focus on the strengths of their place, their communities, and to plan meaningful change.

Some people view government as being about directing and instructing, but in Regional Economic Partnerships our aim is to enable, be one of the partners: offering support and expertise, but respecting regional skills, knowledge and priorities. Drawing on the strengths and insight of the private sector, along with education and skills providers, our goal is to empower and enable Regional economies to develop their areas of expertise, advantage and skills and use this to drive inclusive economic growth.

We’ve seen great work already in Aberdeen City and Shire, partnering with Opportunity North East to link in to private sector needs – notably on the Oil and Gas Technology Centre. Developing partnerships such as Glasgow City Region and the Tay Cities have looked to forge strong links with the local Chambers of Commerce. However these links are made, they are key to the success of the Regional Partnership approach. I look forward to these partnerships maturing and delivering the sort of collaboration and innovation that I’m sure will accelerate inclusive growth throughout their regions.

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02/10/18
Dr Lesley Sawers, Scotland Commissioner for Equalities and Human Rights


The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is the statutory regulator for equality in Scotland but our role is about much more than just holding people and organisations to account. We also play a key leadership role in helping to develop socio-economic policies and programmes that will deliver a fairer and more equal Scotland. In this role we passionately believe that inclusive economic growth has the potential to remedy some of Scotland’s most intractable social problems. Today in Scotland disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed, even in our leading industry sectors women are too often concentrated in junior or middle management posts or low paying roles, and ethnic minorities are twice as like to be unemployed and living in poverty.

Because we see the huge potential of inclusive growth, the EHRC has been working with the Scottish Government and City Deal Partnerships to focus their efforts on economic and social inclusion. Over the last 12 months, working with Johanna Boyd, the ex-leader of Stirling Council, we have been supporting Scotland’s City Regions to develop equality outcomes which will guide their work – for example the Glasgow region deal could create 29, 000 new jobs. Our challenge to the partnerships is for them to state how many of these jobs will go to ethnic minorities, women and disabled people. And to work with them to put in place impact and outcome measures that will monitor progress and change over the lifetime of the capital investment programmes.

Our aim is to make inclusive growth truly inclusive. Scotland has a huge untapped workforce of talented and skilled people, who are currently sitting idle. Discrimination – whether conscious or unconscious – acts as a barrier to their progression. For some disabled people, the issue may not be anything to do with their skills but everything to do with an inaccessible transport system which fails to get them to work, or being trapped in a house which is unsuited to their needs.

We don’t believe that Scottish public bodies or agencies go out of their way to discriminate but we do believe that not enough see social inclusion as a core operating or investment principle.

Procurement is a key example of how in Scotland we can use economic levers to drive social change. The law allows public sector contractors to place equality award criteria and contractual conditions on tenders. Simply asking the question “How many women do you employ now and how many will you be employing at the end of the contract” sets a clear expectation that equality is a key deliverable. But too few currently do it. It’s our ambition to make this common practice. It makes sense for the public purse, for society and for the economy.

By working together we believe we can deliver a fairer and more equitable Scotland, where inclusive growth works for everyone and success is measured in terms of enhanced lifetime opportunities and community transformation.

The EHRC is here to support the mainstreaming of inclusive growth equality practice. You can contact the team – Chris, Helen and Johanna – for further help – at chris.oswald@equalityhuamnrights.com

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12/09/18

People, Place and Prosperity – Scotland’s Regional Economies
Ross Martin, Regional Economic Advisor, Scottish Government. 

Scotland’s Economy is a reflection of its people – increasingly diverse, with strong and proud roots in this place where we choose to live, work and play.

Looked at through the lens of our most prominent people, e.g. our current crop of world class sports stars, it is visibly productive like Andy Murray, but like him, all too often having to bounce back from injury. It’s innovative, just like our national rugby teams, led by the inventive Gregor Townsend and his protégé Shade Munro, both of whom are keenly trying out new ideas, not afraid to fail, at least on occasion.

More and more Scotland’s Economy is also finding international success on the global stage, like the inspirational and grittily determined Laura Muir, and perhaps most characteristically it’s inclusive, and all the more competitive for it, just like our World Cup qualifying Scottish Women’s International Football Team.

These four core characteristics reflect those of Scotland’s Economy – productive capacity, increasing levels of innovation, a more confident internationalisation and of course our long standing, innate sense of inclusivity. These are the hallmarks of inclusive and sustainable growth, they build in resilience as standard, by learning the lessons of the past to better prepare for and shape the future.

Scotland’s Economy is undergoing a long awaited, fundamental shift; from old economy to new, high to low carbon, analogue to digital, driven by data and predictive analytics.  But above all, it is recognising the role, power and productive functionality of its regions. Gathering around the infrastructure investment flags of City and other Growth Deals, Scotland’s Economy is shaping up to be more competitive and resilient in an increasingly uncertain context, through the development of its regional economies.

In economic terms this translates into diversity, with a focus on their current, previous and projected performance, with the additionality that their collective efforts can bring, including through the most challenging, but potentially most productive, reform of revenue, on both the income and expenditure sides of the public sector balance sheet.

This is the challenge and the opportunity. SCRIG is here to help you grasp it.

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30/08/18

A month since launch

It has been around a month since the launch of SCRIG and we have been busy despite it being the summer. We have made a number of improvements to the IG dashboard and are now up to version 1.11. The main changes have been to add extra equalities data and make the formatting easier and quicker.

We have also had some queries over the SCRIG Logo, specifically what one part in particular is.  A full explanation can be found here.

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29/08/18

Inclusive Growth Community of Practice launched

EDAS Inclusive Growth Community of Practice launched on 19 June to support public, private and third sector practitioners working to deliver inclusive growth.

The event report is available here.

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30/07/18

From Diversity Scotland’s Economy Draws Strength – Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work. 

A common feature of successful economies in Europe and across the world is a strong regional distribution of economic activity and positive social impact. This approach demands more than just an acceptance of difference in relation to the roles which regions play within the national economy, it encourages drawing strength from the diversity between them.

Scotland’s Centre for Regional Inclusive Growth will develop the evidence base for regional economic decision-making, and will support our regional economies within a framework that recognises the respective roles of the Scottish Government and its agencies alongside those of local government, the private sector and the increasingly important social economy too.

Scotland’s economy is fundamentally strong. However, as the uncertainties around Brexit approach it is more important than ever to provide our emerging, locally driven network of Regional Economic Partnerships with the tools to drive Inclusive Growth. The Inclusive Growth Diagnostic will make a wealth of regional level data available, and our National Economic Asset Register will offer the ability to draw upon our existing strengths, and draw upon our huge economic potential.

The analytical tools provided by SCRIG will better enable our regions to collaborate with one another, to compete internationally and will improve our regional and national adaptability and resilience.

The launch of SCRIG is a step towards a Scottish economy which leaves no one – and no place – behind. This is a time for strong regional economies and SCRIG will help regional partners design, develop and deliver the Inclusive Growth which will mark Scotland out as an outstanding place in which to live, work, play and invest.