Earlier this month, the Scottish Government launched a replacement for its Council of Economic Advisers, first launched in 2007. The new Advisory Council has tasked its members to “use their insight to bring forward bold ideas that will transform the economy”.

The idea a “brain trust”, of sorts, on the economy is to be welcomed. A number of other countries have used these kinds of bodies effectively to bring forward and develop new ideas to grow and develop their economies.

Those appointed to the various Scottish Government advisory bodies over the years have represented many of the key voices that anyone would want to hear from. Indeed, a number of those serving this time around have already contributed ideas to the Government through other routes and advisory bodies, including former Skyscanner COO Mark Logan, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, and Professor Mariana Mazzucato.

Bringing these minds together in one place is sensible, but it would be wrong to think that it’s a lack of good ideas, or new ideas, or thoughtful contributions, that led the Scottish economy to register an average annual growth rate not far above half that of the UK as a whole in the decade before the pandemic.

It is also not for a lack of strategy documents or action plans – the policy landscape is nothing if not cluttered.

Instead, what has been lacking has been a laser focus upon the delivery of economic growth and development initiatives, and the single-minded focus required to do so.

The 2007 Scottish Government Economic Strategy worried about precisely this issue: “The call to action for all arms of the public sector to support increasing sustainable growth is not an invitation for a proliferation of initiatives, however well intentioned.”

In the intervening period, this invocation has not been particularly well remembered.

If we are to tackle to long-term economic challenges that Scotland faces – and has faced for decades – delivery and focus need to be the defining mission of the new economic strategy.

We are a small country with significant national strengths, not just our skilled workforce, our diverse culture and natural environment, but also our international excellence in key sectors. We benefit from this smallness in many ways. Our key business leaders are not hard to identify. Nor are our economic “thinkers”.

But at the same time, this smallness can be a hindrance. It can lead Government to become too responsive to every issue, losing sight of long-term goals. Too often every stakeholder’s interest is treated as a priority, but with tight budgets and global competitors not everything can be a priority. It can also lead to agencies and bodies being tasked with an overwhelming diversity of objectives.

And it can lead to a lack of self-criticism – both within policymakers and among their advisers – and an unwillingness to be open about what has not worked well.

The launch of this new Advisory Council provides an opportunity to reset not just our economic strategy, or the mission for our public bodies, but our approach to delivery.

To make progress, three things need to underpin the council’s key outputs: 1) a focus on a small number of tangible objectives which build on our existing economic strengths and align with a clear overarching purpose, 2) a commitment that this new economic strategy will lead to a reassessment of the utility of other Government strategies in this area, and 3) an emphasis on developing delivery capacity in the public sector, including investment in better data and evaluation of what works –and what doesn’t – in supporting economic development.

This would deliver an economic strategy with real purpose.

Stuart McIntyre is head of research of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde