Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland must help 'shape the future'

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Scotland 'must be a producer of the future'

Scotland must be capable of designing and producing the products of the future if its economy is to thrive, the first minister has told business leaders.

Nicola Sturgeon was speaking as she set out her economic vision for the next decade at an event in Ayrshire.

She also announced an additional £45m to boost the research and development efforts of Scottish businesses.

And she pledged additional help for key industries and entrepreneurs.

Speaking at Spirit AeroSystems in Prestwick, Ms Sturgeon said she wanted the country to be at the forefront of technological and social innovations, including making Scotland an early adopter of electric and other low emission vehicles.

'Inventor and producer'

She added: "I want Scotland to be the inventor and producer of the innovations that shape the future - not just a consumer of them."

Economic growth in Scotland has often lagged behind the levels experienced across the UK.

Image source, PA
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The first minister was speaking at Spirit AeroSystems in Prestwick

Scottish GDP grew by 0.8% in the first quarter of this year, having shrunk by 0.2% in the previous three months.

The figures meant Scotland outstripped the UK as a whole, which saw growth of just 0.2% in the first three months of the year.

But while the Scottish economy grew by 0.7% over the previous 12 months, the equivalent UK growth was 2%.

Experts at the Fraser of Allander Institute have warned that Scotland's economy still faces a fragile outlook.

To help address this, Ms Sturgeon said her government would set out proposals in the coming weeks to:

  • Help the advanced manufacturing, energy and financial technology sectors
  • Give additional support for graduate entrepreneurs
  • Help companies to access finance

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland has immense economic potential, but warned that the country "must be more ambitious, with government, businesses and wider society working together to lead on the key technological and social changes of the future."

She also stressed the importance of ensuring the economic growth is "inclusive, so that everyone benefits and has a fair chance to contribute".

During her visit to Spirit AeroSystems, the first minister confirmed the firm has won a contract to manufacture carbon wing components for the Airbus A320 aircraft.

The business had previously benefited from £2.1m funding from Scottish Enterprise towards research and development (R&D) projects.

'Drives innovation'

Ms Sturgeon said: "R&D drives innovation, which in turn boosts productivity and economic growth. That is why R&D support from our enterprise agencies will increase almost 70% - from £22m to £37m per year.

"We expect this additional £45m over three years will unlock a further £270m R&D expenditure by companies."

Responding to the speech, the Scottish Conservatives claimed that there was "not much that's new".

The party's economy spokesman, Dean Lockhart, said: "The SNP need to fundamentally change their economic approach, but that's not what we're seeing here.

"Under 10 years of the SNP we've seen low growth, low productivity, and not enough innovation. That's not good enough for an economy with a world-class workforce, and some of the world's leading universities."

And Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said the SNP had a "woeful record" of managing the economy.

She said: "Despite Nicola Sturgeon's spin and bluster, earlier this year the SNP led us to the brink of recession and growth still remains lower than the rest of the UK. That's not good enough".

'Fragile position'

Prof Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said Ms Sturgeon had been open about the challenges that face Scotland's economy.

He added: "Even taking into account the recent positive growth figures, the Scottish economy has been in a fragile position for over two years now, with further uncertainty on the horizon as we move toward the UK's departure from the EU.

"But despite these challenges, the first minister is correct to point out that there are significant opportunities to aim for, particularly in seeking out new opportunities in growing overseas markets and taking advantage of the technologies of the future."

The first minister is due to unveil her legislative programme for the coming year when MSPs return to Holyrood on Tuesday.

Ahead of her speech in Ayrshire, Ms Sturgeon confirmed that Nora Senior, chairwoman of UK regions for global PR firm Weber Shandwick, will chair the new Strategic Board for Enterprise and Skills.

Ms Sturgeon said Ms Senior has had a "hugely distinguished career in business and is the ideal person to lead the new strategic board as it works with business to achieve our shared ambitions for growth".

The board was announced by Economy Secretary Keith Brown earlier this year, and will be tasked with "aligning the work" of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

It came as Mr Brown confirmed that controversial plans to replace Scotland's enterprise and training agencies with one national board had been abandoned.