By Dominic Ryan

Positive change is often sparked by rigorous and healthy debate and the publication of the Raising Scotland’s Economic Growth Rate report certainly has Scotland’s business community talking.

Produced by consultancy Oxford Economics for The Hunter Foundation, it calls for a major rethink of the nation’s economic policy, while highlighting issues around Scotland’s productivity, business growth and GDP.

For his part, Sir Tom Hunter himself has welcomed the opening up of fresh discourse. Speaking on the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey, he said: “The aim of the report is to start a debate across Scotland. Obviously, I don’t have all the answers. Nobody has all the answers! But I think if we collaborate here, then Scotland’s a small enough place that we can all get round one table – those who are entrusted, from political parties to the trade unions to the thought sector to the universities to the job creators.

“We get better policy, if we collaborate, and the point of the report is to start a national debate.

“What it tells us is Scotland’s economic performance, if we only tinker with economic policy, is not going to be good enough. It’s not good enough for me and it’s not good enough for Scotland.

“The link between a vibrant economy, people creating jobs, people paying their taxes is we can afford the better health service, better education, a civil society. The way to do it is to have positive economic growth . . . so let’s start a debate!”

Asked for his reaction to the report by show host Donald Martin, editor of The Herald and Herald on Sunday, Lord Willie Haughey said he believed it to be a first-class piece of work.

“I thought it was very balanced. It pointed at many areas where Scotland is up there, as good as the rest, if you exclude London.

“I agree the whole point is getting that debate started and I think business would love to be engaged with all politicians.”

The report notes radical and ambitious policy changes are required, if economic performance is to be transformed, and Sir Tom noted: “People starting businesses and scale-up are things close to my heart and in the Hunter Foundation we’ve been trying to encourage this for 20 years.

“We’ve obviously not been doing a good enough job – there’ll be some big news coming on this pretty soon!”

He added: “I think we have to double down on our efforts. One of the big things the report’s authors talk about – and this is a big opportunity for us – is the North Sea.

I listen to people like Sir Ian Wood because he built a global oil and gas business from nothing in the north-east.

“He talks about renewables, blue and green hydrogen, wind, tidal and harnessing the brilliant workforce up there in the North Sea, the great engineering skills, the technology coming out of universities and putting Scotland up there as a world leader.”

Reacting to the report’s recommendations for government support and intervention, Lord Haughey commented: “The biggest takeaway for me in the whole document was the failure in scale-up. The government have to look at how they encourage investment, especially in start-ups and in scale-ups. Entrepreneurial investment relief is mentioned and I think they should look at that.

“Make it a tax advantage to take on younger people and help with apprenticeships.”

He added: “If I was to give the government advice on how they can take this report forward, it would be to really focus in on the biggest weaknesses highlighted in the document.”