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BUSINESS FOCUS: Reasons to be optimistic in a busy time for meetings and public engagement events

By Grant Campbell

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Port of Cromarty Firth.
Port of Cromarty Firth.

It has been a busy month of engagement for us here in the Highlands and Islands Region and we continue to be optimistic that we have a significant role to play in the global economy for generations to come.

Our members had the opportunity meet with Gregor Irwin, Director General Economy for Scottish Government, and his Directorate in Inverness where we discussed how the co-designing of national policies through collaboration would be key to ensuring that legislation and regulation can be drivers and not barriers for economic growth.

Our partnership with the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport to deliver a supply chain event on the ‘Local Impact of a Global Opportunity’ brought together 175 senior leaders from organisations across the region to learn more about the size and scale of investments in our port infrastructure and how it will support the energy transition.

We support the potential for inward investment, particularly where the role of local manufacturing towards our region’s economic ambition can contribute to the prosperity of current and future generations.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement brought some good news for the region, and we welcome the announcements he made of full expensing for companies investing in plant and machinery and £4.5bn in funding for manufacturing industries.

Grid connections are a major barrier for businesses ready to invest in net zero so the new action plan to cut delays by 90 per cent is very significant, which the Scottish Government should build on with actions to speed up planning.

The extension of the incentives available for our Freeports and Investment Zones from five to 10 years is also positive and timely news.

The freeze on spirits duty, at least until next August, is welcome support for Scotch whisky, especially SMEs, an industry which is so vital to our region and to export growth.

However, it is concerning that public investment is still frozen and there is a real terms squeeze on many public services, which is putting strain on the fabric of our society and will make it harder to grow and level up the economy.”

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