‘Business for Good’ is the new direction of travel - Liz McAreavey
As we are beginning to emerge from the pandemic crisis, there is a fragile optimism of an accelerated recovery, yet I fear there is still a bumpy winter ahead.
City centres are still struggling with reduced footfall, remote working and the growth in online retail, and our cities are the drivers of our economic recovery.
Edinburgh city region contributes 30 per cent of Scotland’s GDP and for us to significantly increase this performance we need a clear economic vision for the future of our capital city.
Are we to continue to build on our reputation as an International Festival City and a leading knowledge economy, attracting visitors, talent and investment?
Or do we risk limiting our potential through lack of a clear, agreed way forward? We need a ‘comprehensive package’ that sells Edinburgh to the rest of the world – something many other cities are now working hard to deliver.
What is the joined-up, one story told with a single voice? We don’t yet have that voice, although happily there are now positive and vital signs of Team Edinburgh beginning to pull together with greater purpose.
In the face of the challenges, the need for a “good recovery” for Edinburgh is overwhelming. We need local and national government to work with businesses collaboratively to put the economy at the heart of policy. And we need a policy framework that enables businesses to grow and prosper for the benefit of all.
Overwhelmingly, businesses want longevity and sustainability, this requires a responsible, purpose-led approach to our futures as we transition to net zero, fair work and the living wage.
If this is to happen, we need a realistic timescale, enabling policies and an acceptance that we need to start the journey together.
We have a raft of strategies for the future of the city: The CityPlan 2030, Mobility Strategy, Economy Strategy, Tourism 2030 Strategy and the Sustainability Strategy, to name just a few. We also have the Regional Growth Framework that outlines the Edinburgh and South East Scotland’s future direction of travel.
This is a complex and fragmented policy approach, difficult to understand by business and communities, near impossible for individuals and organisations to engage with and daunting to think of how we deliver outcomes.
Working together on a coherent plan for the city is essential and must be welcomed. We are facing stagflation, the worst of all worlds, as costs rise and the economy stagnates. The unintended consequence of our policies will lead to greater poverty and increased inequalities if we don’t transition in a joined-up way.
Increasingly we are seeing a real appetite for ‘Business for Good’, and we need to drive this further and faster. As Scotland’s capital city we can take a lead on dealing with poverty, climate, and economic growth, but we need to collectively develop the bedrock of our future economy. Trust between business and government is a fundamental part of this.
Liz McAreavey is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce