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.