ONE of Nicola Sturgeon’s most senior economic advisors has warned that Scottish minister “don’t have the levers” to invest the amount of cash needed for a green recovery – as he called for less chat and more action from politicians.

Benny Higgins, who chairs the Scottish Government’s advisory group on economic recovery, has stressed that both government and businesses need to show more willing to work together if Scotland has any chance of transitioning to an economy without relying on burning carbon and preparing the country’s workforce for “the kind of jobs that we can expect in the mid 21st century”.

The Scottish Government has stressed it intends to kickstart a green recovery from Covid-19 and has also pledged for the country to become caron net-zero by 2045.

READ MORE: Post-Covid Scotland 'needs a £150bn green revolution'

Previously, Mr Higgins has called for Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19 to  “focus on green trade”, while also warning that a” green economic recovery is central to recovery overall”.

He was quizzed by MSPs investigating a green recovery from Covid-19 and pointed to other countries that are investing vast amounts of funding to ensure green and low-carbon industries can take off amid the emergence from the crisis.

Convener of Holyrood’s environment, climate change and land reform committee, Gillian Martin, said: “Other countries have responded to their own economic situation, particularly post what we hope is the height of Covid by investing a percentage of their GDP in their green recovery.

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“That seems to me, something that seems necessary – it's going to take a lot of investment to get us out of this.

“Do you feel that the Scottish Government has got the levers to be able to do that?”

Mr Higgins, the former Tesco Bank CEO, pointed to Germany, which will invest four per cent of the country’s GDP in its Covid-19 recovery.

He said: “Four per cent of Scotland’s GDP is £6 billion and within the fiscal framework, we are restricted to £450 million which is 0.3 per cent of GDP.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have the levers to invest the amount that would be reasonably required as stimulus to come out of this crisis.”

The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for more spending or borrowing powers form the UK Government in order to equip the country for its recovery from the crisis.

But Mr Higgins, who helped set up the Scottish National Investment Bank, stressed that he does not believe “it’s reasonable or feasible" to "imagine that we could change the whole fiscal framework in a timeframe that is consistent with the emergency that we face”.

He added: “I think we have to somehow find a way to work with Westminster to either get them to invest something that’s commensurate with the crisis and spread through the devolved nations or find some other mechanism.

There’s lots of things that we can do but at the heart of it, we don’t have the capacity to unilaterally in Scotland, invest the kind of numbers, even if it wasn’t four per cent but two per cent is £3 billion.

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“These numbers, at the moment, are a long, long way away from the amounts being invested. We can talk about programmes, we can talk about a lot of things but we’ve got to pay for them.”

Mr Higgins said that despite the lack of funding available, investment should be targeted to preparing workers for green jobs that will drive the economy in the years to come.

He said: “The specific areas where the spending needs to be done is in projects that will play their part in getting us to net-zero by 2045. It needs to be in training that prepares people of all ages but especially young people for the kinds of jobs that we can expect in the mid 21st century.

“The leading economies of the mid 21st century will be those that do focus on wellbeing, those that do focus on net-zero, those that have a green spine to their recovery form Covid and those that have trained and reskilled people of all ages, young and old, in preparing for what’s coming next.”

Mr Higgins said that the £100 million green jobs fund announced by Nicola Sturgeon in her Programme for Government last week, “ideally would be a lot bigger”. Ministers have also announced a £60 million fund to help facilitate industrial decarbonisation.

Tory MSP Liz Smith pointed to concerns that “engagement by government with business had not always been firing on the right cylinders”.

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Ms Smith asked Mr Higgins what can be done to “ensure there is complete joined-up thinking about trying to change this culture” and improve “engagement by government with businesses”.

Mr Higgins stressed that “there’s never been a more important time to work together”, warning there are barricades on all sides.

He added: “It’s very easy to talk about working together but you’ve actually got to do it – there are cynics out there on all sides of all the divides that think it’s the other side’s fault.

“Almost in every case, the fault lies on both sides. I think that’s true in this instance.

“I think government can and should do more but I think business also has to be ready and position itself to deal with the relationship better.

“I don’t think all trade bodies represent their sector as brilliantly as they would like to think so and maybe even say so. We do need to rethink this but there’s nothing that beats working together.”

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Scottish Greens MSP, Mark Ruskell, raised concerns over “a recovery that very much fits the agenda of the oil and gas industry and their corporate aspirations to maximise extraction” of fossil fuels.

Instead, Mr Ruskell said the economy should “create livelihoods in other sectors that pull jobs over”.

Mr Higgins said there was no doubt that skilled workers should be moved to industries not dependent on carbon.

READ MORE: Oil and gas chiefs in plea for funds to meet 2050 ‘net zero’ promise as 30,000 jobs remain at risk

He added: “It’s the question of what are the understandings and agreements with the corporations to try and facilitate that happening more seamlessly.

“It has to be a renewable, green, education-led recovery. That’s the only thing that starts to tackle the big problems that we face in the world and in the country.

“This is very, very difficult and will require very careful choices and very close collaboration.”

Mr Higgins also called for governments to follow through on aspirations to build a more sustainable economy.

READ MORE: Scottish Government's strategy to kick-start green economy branded 'woefully inadequate'

He said: “The challenge isn’t whether or not the announcement of things are going to be done or planned are being announced, it’s whether they get done or not.

“We have never lived in a time when it’s the execution of plans, the execution of change that matters any more than it matters today. The test isn’t writing it down, the test is doing it.

“What we need to see in the country now is quick progress on the things that matter most.”

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He added: “I do think that young people are very vulnerable in this Covid crisis - I mean people certainly between mid-teens and mid-20s.

“We just have to make sure that as we build a wellbeing economy, an economy that’s based on a green spine, an economy that’s about fairness, that we create the opportunities for these young people to be trained and subsequently employed.

“We’ve got to create jobs and we’ve got to create the education-led recovery, the training and reskilling recovery that the younger people need.”