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Something in the air? by Charlie Woods

The recent EDAS (Economic Development Association Scotland) Conference took as it’s theme ‘Our economy – beyond the referendum: developing a route map for common ambition.” Amongst the speakers and the floor discussion there appeared to be a growing consensus that a fairer, more equal society (in terms of opportunity, ownership and outcome) is not only an indicator of a well functioning economy, but will also contribute to improved economic performance. Amongst other things, this would come about through realising wasted human potential, increasing demand for products and services and reducing demands on public expenditure to ameliorate problems associated with inequality. Interestingly the relationship between equality and growth has also received attention from the IMF this year.

In terms of how this ambition is to be achieved in Scotland there were a number of calls for a more collaborative approach in a variety of different contexts. These included:

  • between the private public and third sectors;
  • within public authorities and agencies trying to stimulate development to better join up policy and practice;
  • between communities and developers to jointly develop plans that can meet shared interests;
  • between employers and educationalists to shape curricula; and
  • within companies to give employees a greater stake in the business and the chance to bring their experience to bear, not least in developing productivity improving innovations.

Coincidently this identification of the need for greater collaboration to improve economic performance came a week after the launch of a new group called N56, with the strapline ‘Scotland means business’. This business led group (started by Dan Macdonald) has as part of its founding statement a desire “to facilitate a culture in which the private sector truly works alongside government, the public sector and communities, in the interests of establishing and implementing a strategy from which society as a whole can benefit and prosper. Indeed we believe this culture is more important than any individual policy.”

Maybe there’s something in the air that can be built on, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

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