TRACY BLACK

Talking about 2020 vision used to be the sole preserve of opticians, but now it’s the Scottish business community has a great opportunity to show itself to be more far-sighted than near-sighted as we embark on a year that offers great promise, but still contains some significant risks.

While businesses and communities alike have been trapped in a revolving door of uncertainty on Brexit, a new government with a clear mandate has the power to move things forward. And there’s plenty to be getting on with, from addressing regional inequality to hitting carbon-reduction goals.

As negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with our biggest trading partner hove into view, it’s time to re-establish that unbreakable partnership between business and government that’s essential to tackling the biggest issues of our day.

By working closely with government, business can ensure that those at the negotiating table make best use of the wealth of expertise companies have to offer. It’s firms that trade most goods and services, are at the front line of market access barriers, and strike deals every day the world over. Their knowledge and insight – from the factory, shop and office floor to the boardroom – will be mission critical to the UK’s trading future.

But what of Scotland? Well the economic signs aren’t overly positive and show that there’s still much work to be done.

Productivity and competitiveness remain the watchwords as we look to bring in much needed investment, attract the talent we need and drive productivity gains to give the economy the jump start it sorely needs. Ahead of the Scottish Budget, we’ll issue our own proposals to MSPs for putting the economy at the forefront of political debate once again and getting back to delivering the kind of sustained growth we’re all looking for.

Again, it isn’t an easy ask, but there are things we can do to make it better. Partnership between business and government has never been more important and if we make the kind of investments in infrastructure, R&D spending, education and skills that we need, we can slowly begin the process of unlocking Scotland’s potential.

For me the biggest reason to be optimistic about 2020 is Glasgow’s hosting of the COP26 summit. Not only is it a prestigious occasion for an amazing city, but it’s also a prime opportunity to showcase our green credentials. With a world class renewables sector and the most ambitious carbon reduction targets in the UK, Scotland has every right to claim its place as a world leader in climate change and sustainability.

Personally, I can’t wait to welcome the rest of the world to Glasgow and show how committed Scotland’s business community is to turning Glasgow from ‘No Mean City’ to a ‘Go Green City’. And if we can’t get excited about a global summit on our doorstep, then maybe we are as dour as some depict us!

So let’s roll out the welcome mat and dig out the best china to show the world the best of Scotland. A year of focussing on how to take advantage of new opportunities - rather than obsessing over politics - would be greatly appreciated by business. Let us get back to doing what we do best: innovating, creating jobs and delivering growth. If we can create the conditions for the private sector to thrive, the better chance we have of delivering the kind of sustainable economic growth that can help people up and down the country.

Tracy Black is director of CBI Scotland.