More than two-thirds of directors believe the Scottish Government does not understand the business environment north of the Border, while nearly one in four think it does, fresh polling has revealed.

And 58.6% of business leaders do not believe the Scottish Government engages well with their sector when considering policies which would affect them, this “policy voice” polling by the Institute of Directors in Scotland shows.

Asked for a view on the statement that “the Scottish Government understands the business environment in Scotland”, 8.6% of respondents strongly agreed and 13.8% agreed, a total of 22.4%. On the other hand, 22.4% disagreed and 44.8% strongly disagreed, a total of 67.2%.

Meanwhile, 8.6% neither agreed nor disagreed, and 1.7% said they did not know.

A survey published in the summer by the Fraser of Allander Institute and law firm Addleshaw Goddard found 9% of firms north of the Border agreeing or strongly agreeing that the Scottish Government understands the business environment in Scotland, with 64% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. The proportion of business leaders agreeing or strongly agreeing that the Scottish Government understands the business environment in the IoD polling is around two-and-a-half times that in the survey by Fraser of Allander and Addleshaw Goddard.

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Asked in the IoD’s policy voice polling to give an opinion on the statement that “the Scottish Government engages well with my sector if it is considering policies that would affect us”, 13.8% disagreed and 44.8% strongly disagreed. Meanwhile, 3.4% strongly agreed and 19% agreed. And 19% said they neither agreed nor disagreed.

Explaining the background to its polling, the IoD said: “Against the backdrop of the Scottish Government’s ‘new deal for business’, it is important the Scottish Government engages as effectively as possible with the business community. The results from these questions are designed to contribute to research into how well businesses feel the Scottish Government understands their needs.”

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Catherine McWilliam, national director of the IoD in Scotland, said: “The New Deal for Business Group, in which the IoD is heavily involved, aims to build a strong bridge between business and government and our results suggest the conversation should start at the policy development stage as opposed to later in the process of implementing change.”

She added: “By creating clear channels of communication and a meaningful opportunity to engage with decision-makers about the opportunities and challenges presented by incoming regulation, policies can deliver real benefit to both government and the business community.”

Humza Yousaf unveiled his “new deal for Scottish business” plan in a speech on April 18, shortly after being sworn in as First Minister on March 29.

Mr Yousaf at the same time revealed his decision to delay the controversial deposit return scheme.

And he declared he had asked officials to go back to the drawing board on proposals for restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion. The proposals had caused great concern in the the alcoholic drinks and retail sectors.

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Mr Yousaf said of his “new deal” plans in his April 18 speech: “I have written to key business representative groups, and asked them to engage in urgent discussions with the Scottish Government to agree a new deal for Scottish businesses…The discussions will explore, among other things, how government can better support our businesses and communities using the policy levers we do have, including non-domestic rates.”

Referring to the “new deal” as well as the moves on the deposit return scheme and alcohol advertising proposals, Mr Yousaf added: “These three steps will all, I trust, be welcomed individually by Scotland’s business community. But I hope that collectively they also send a broader signal about this government’s approach to business.

“This government knows that Scotland can only be successful if our businesses are successful. And so, as First Minister, my door will always be open to you. We might not always agree but I will always give you a fair hearing. And I will seek to address your concerns wherever possible.”

Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale recently flagged “encouraging first steps” from the New Deal for Business Group.

Colin Borland, director of devolved nations at the Federation of Small Businesses, said in October: “Having been part of the New Deal for Business Group since the outset, it’s great to see the issues we highlighted around the table beginning to translate into tangible actions.”

He added: “One thing that comes through very clearly from the plan is a commitment to understand and address the cumulative impact of government interventions. While new regulations can seem sensible or proportionate in isolation, businesses aren’t told to comply with them in isolation. We know that the overall regulatory burden, coupled with ongoing challenging trading conditions, is having a real impact on some of our smallest operators.

“We welcome the promise to develop a new way of assessing the impact of new regulations on businesses’ bottom lines.”