THE Scottish Government’s flagship plan to reshape the economy has suffered an immediate setback after a key stakeholder disowned it.

The STUC, which represents more than half a million Scottish workers in trade unions, said the National Strategy for Economic Transformation was a “missed opportunity” that merely paid “lip service” to creating a well-being economy.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer, who was on the advisory council which tried to inform the plan, said it had “a sprinkling of good ideas”, but overlooked most of the workforce.  

"Sadly, this is more a strategy for economic status quo than economic transformation," she said.

The entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter said it was "a long wish list with no magic wand to deliver it, which I do not believe is market-tested nor pragmatic".

Ms Foyer said the plan also failed to address why previous attempts to create more green jobs had fallen short, or say how past mistakes could be learned from.

She also said its focus on entrepreneurs would not address its other aim of tackling  inequality, saying the latter would “certainly not be solved by prioritising becoming a ‘magnet for global private capital’ nor through the appointment of a ‘Chief Entrepreneurship Officer’.”

She said: “Genuinely building new business start-ups is a good idea, flooding the economy with new start-ups, too many of which then fail, is not.”

The rejection of the finished plan by trade unions was especially damaging given the Government insisted they would integral to the process.

In her foreword to the plan, Ms Forbes said the Government’s approach had been informed by “wide ranging engagement with businesses, unions and other stakeholders”.  

The strategy also says its successful delivery “will require all of our partners to work together” in a “Team Scotland” approach, including “trade unions who give a voice to Scotland’s workers and are central to the delivery of an economic model in which everybody has the opportunity to participate and share in its success”.  

Ms Forbes launched the advisory council last July, saying the outside experts would bring forward “bold ideas” to transform Scotland’s economy over the next 10 years.

However the process was beset by grumbling about vague and stale ideas from civil servants, and the final report was delayed by more than four months.

Criticis say it is “underwhelming”, with the Government’s own modelling suggesting it could increase Scottish GDP by just £8bn or 5 per cent above trend over ten years.

It proposes a much closer partnership between the public and private sectors, helping the just transition away from fossil fuel jobs to a net zero economy.

It contains six main strands - fostering entrepreneurialism and start-ups, new export markets, improving productivity, lifelong skills, tackling inequality and delivery.

However many of the detail plans for action will  not be published until later this year.

Launching the plan at the Michelin Innovation Parc in Dundee, Ms Forbes said the plan would “ensure Scotland is indeed a fairer, wealthier and greener nation by 2032 because we took the decisions required to transform our economy as we emerged from the pandemic. 

“To achieve all of this we must create the conditions to generate significant, systemic change. We must be bold, ruthless and laser-focussed to maximise the impact of the actions we have identified.”  

She went on: “The next ten years are decisive. We face a choice – to lead or to lag behind comparable economies. Leadership is a choice, and success is never inevitable.

“We choose to lead, because we believe Scotland has all the resources, talents, ingenuity and natural assets to be one of the most successful economies on the planet.

“This strategy clarifies our vision, it identifies the building blocks of success and it reforms the public landscape to focus ruthlessly and relentlessly on delivery.”

She said the plan was based on Holyrood's current powers, and a separate propspectus would outlines "what additional steps we would take to make Scotland successful with all the powers of an independent country".

She said: "That will be published in due course, but for now we focus on straining every sinew to succeed with what we have."

Under the plan, the First Minister will also chair an “investor panel” to attract overseas finance into green jobs, bringing “investor intelligence to policy and regulatory development”, suggesting big business will help write their own rules.

Ms Forbes added: “We will ensure the voice of business is heard at the heart of government, re-design services from the perspective of their users, and make greater use of private and third sector delivery organisations where it makes sense to do so.”

Despite arranging for the media to watch Ms Forbes launch the report in Dundee online, the Scottish Government did not allow journalists to ask her any questions.  

Ms Foyer said: “The National Strategy for Economic Transformation has a sprinkling of good ideas and we have successfully argued for some strong lines on the importance of Fair Work, decent pay and the role of trade unions, but overall, it is a missed opportunity to address the challenges before us and make real, transformational change. 

“The main engine of the Scottish economy is the foundational economy. 

“Unsurprisingly it is also the biggest employer. It encompasses transport, retail, energy generation, distribution and importantly education and public services. 

“So, at the heart of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) should have been a strategy to increase pay and improve terms and conditions in these sectors.  “Investing in public services offers a huge opportunity to support sustainable growth while tackling poverty and inequality.”

She went on: “Over the coming years we face enormous challenges, none greater than the journey to net zero, a journey that must be carefully planned to ensure we create good, secure jobs that do not leave communities abandoned.  

“Whilst the NSET talks about the potential for future development in the renewables and low carbon economy it fails to acknowledge previous failures or, more importantly, how we can learn from them and build a new industrial strategy.”     

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said the plan was the "same old, same old".

He said: "The SNP have been publishing plans, strategies and consultations like this for fifteen years but the record of action is embarrassing. If fine words created jobs we’d have full employment under the SNP. 

“The SNP spent millions failing to save BiFab and now they haven’t even trained enough local workers to build a fraction of the windfarms offshore. 

"They promised two thousand jobs in Lochaber but have only created a handful in return for financial backing worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Gupta businesses. 

"The Chief Executive of the Scottish National investment Bank resigned within months of taking up the post, productivity remains stubbornly low, economic growth is lagging and Scottish income tax receipts are predicted to fall short."

Scottish Labour economy spokesperson Daniel Johnson said the Government's failure to allow media questions showed it was in trouble. 

He said: “For years, we have been calling for the SNP to produce a proper economic plan for Scotland.

"Our nation has had no proper industrial strategy, no plan to boost entrepreneurship, no plan for sustainable and well-paid jobs since the SNP took control 15 years ago.

“Now, we have the SNP announce a bundle of new ‘consultations’ and ‘advisory panels’ but nothing of real substance. The lack of press at the launch event says it all - the SNP have run out of steam.”

Scottish Conservative Shadow Secretary for Finance and Economy Liz Smith MSP said: “The SNP’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation was, in reality, a thin and underwhelming collection of platitudes. 

“It has some lofty aspirations with far too few concrete plans for delivering economic growth.

“Beneath the buzzwords, this speech contained the telling admission that many of the problems in the Scottish economy – slow productivity growth, skills shortages, entrenched regional inequalities and poverty - predate Covid. That’s a damning indictment of the SNP’s record in power over the last 15 years.

“Once again, the SNP’s obsession with independence shines through. The Finance Secretary cites separating Scotland as the solution to all the ills the SNP have created or exacerbated, even though the economic case for independence has never been weaker.

“The SNP’s anti-business approach has held back the Scottish economy, and the situation is likely to get worse now the anti-growth Scottish Greens are in government.”

However the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland welcomed the strategy.

Spokesman Andrew McRae said: "A new government report won’t help pay any bills today, but the headline measures in this strategy could help Scotland realise its long-term ambitions.

“Encouraging more people to go into business is the key to broadening and strengthening our economic base.  It’s also a powerful tool in driving social mobility. That’s why we’re behind the idea for a Chief Entrepreneurship Officer in the Scottish Government.

“This new leader must be a voice for the private sector in the corridors of power.

"It’s not just about creating digital multinationals, but championing Scotland’s legion of self-employed people and the go-getters who want to start their own neighbourhood firm.

"They also need to look at how we make starting a business or becoming self-employed a more realistic, less risky step for far more people.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Finance pledged a ruthless focus on delivery.

Delays and confusion associated with Covid grant funding shows that there’s much scope for improvement when it comes to execution.” 

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce was glowing.

Chief executive Dr Liz Cameron said: "Scotland’s businesses will applaud the scale and ambition set out in the strategy, which has the potential to live up to its name and truly revolutionise the Scottish economic landscape over the next decade.

“The Strategy is a strong starting point for transformation and businesses of all sizes and from all sectors will step forward to help support the initiatives set out to drive forward the renewal of Scotland’s economy.  

“By working in partnership, businesses and government can become better positioned to dial up Scotland’s economy by several notches, creating the jobs, opportunities and trading conditions that will drive an increasingly entrepreneurial, wealthier and greener Scotland. 

"The key test for the Scottish Government and it’s agencies however will be to demonstrate they can effectively work with businesses to deliver meaningful change.  Delivering Scotland’s economic transformation will be a collective effort and Scotland’s businesses have the skills and expertise to deliver growth, however, the public sector must create the environment to allow this to happen.”

However the Scottish Greens, the SNP's partners in Government, gave the strategy a mixed review.

MSP Maggie Chapman said: “The NSET takes some significant steps forward. From ensuring fair pay in public contracts, growing green jobs, committing to public ownership and helping develop cooperatives and social enterprises, the influence of Greens in government is clear. This isn’t a Green economic strategy however.

“Whilst we’re proud of the impact we’ve had on the document, the Scottish Greens believe the focus on growth is outdated and has resulted in rising inequalities, more precarious work, and is driving the destruction of the planet.

"That’s why it’s an excluded area in the Scottish Greens cooperation agreement with the Scottish Government.

"We would focus more clearly on what the economy is for: to enable communities and individuals to care for each other, be creative, and work together. We need an economy that allows us all to fulfil our ambitions and access the services and support we need, as well as supporting a vibrant and engaged democracy.

“We will continue to work to ensure equalities and human rights are embedded in our economic development and create people-focused communities that can benefit from innovation whilst enabling participation, inclusion and improved wellbeing.

“And it is clear that Scotland is hampered from making radical changes while tethered to a Westminster system beholden to market forces. To truly transform our economy we need the powers that would come with independence.”

Matthew Crighton of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the vision was welcome but there was "a lack of concrete ideas as to how its good intentions will be delivered".

He said: "Everyone recognises the need to be greener and fairer but without any realistic plan to achieve these changes they will remain aspirational daydreams.

“To deliver a just transition to zero carbon, the government has to assess and secure the investments needed in each part of our economy. It then needs to set out expectations for job creation and social benefits, how to measure them and who will deliver them.

"Instead, it seems happy just to point the boat forwards and hope that the fickle winds of the market economy will blow it in the right direction.

“The focus on economic growth and entrepreneurship fails to show how this approach can deliver on these wider social and environmental benefits. Instead we have a repeat of lots of the tired old ideas that have helped bring us the current state of inequality, environmental breakdown and economic insecurity."