Chair Des McNulty, Policy Scotland, provided an outline of the Scottish Government’s IG priorities from Scotland’s Economic Strategy. His presentation introduced the idea that an important step towards delivering more IG is the involvement of businesses and entrepreneurs in the implementation processes.
By encouraging collaboration across different levels of government and between public agencies and businesses, it is thought key to achieving more IG at a local and regional level. At the regional level there is a greater knowledge of the needs of local communities and disadvantaged groups, as well as closer links to local business. As a result, regions are thought to be an appropriate level to focus place-based approaches to IG.
However, creating cohesion between different governing levels and with the business community remains a challenge, including a lack of realism about what can be achieved and the degree of devolved power required from central to the city region level, in order to support change.
Ziga Zarnic, Inclusive Growth Advisor to the OECD, followed with a presentation on the role of businesses in enacting IG strategies. Overall, he highlighted that income inequality is already high and is continuing to rise. It is thus important this is a key issue that IG strategies must address.
It is however important to recognise it is impossible to talk about IG without discussion of housing and land use policies. There is high labour market insecurity and as the gig economy expands, policies must work to protect these new kinds of workers.
The inequalities seen in society and within the labour force are detrimental to growth, social mobility, and negatively impact both the well-being of workers and the success of the overall economy.
Inequality is a problem for everyone and one that everyone should want to address. Businesses are already concerned about income inequality and the stagnation of middle-class incomes because it has created a loss of buying power and unmotivated employees, among other concerns. Through this understanding and with a focus on IG as a positive shift in policy that both governing bodies and businesses can collaborate on, businesses can be made to care about societal inequalities.
Mark Hepworth from the Good Economy followed with a presentation on ‘business-led inclusive job growth strategies in the south of Scotland’. Mark suggested that the business sector can support inclusive job growth creation, although emphasising that IG is ultimately the responsibility of government to policy change. He agreed that the regional level is best equipped to enact positive change, and that a clearer definition of inclusive growth is necessary for measuring the success of policies. Mark also echoed previous arguments that all areas of policy are important for creating inclusive growth. For example, transport reform is particularly important in including typically excluded and disconnected groups of people.
Finally, Dr Linda Christie from Policy Scotland closed the meeting by providing a summary of the evolving IG research and recent findings.
For more details of the discussions at this meeting, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
The final meeting of the Regional Inclusive Growth Research Network will take place later in the year and will be supplemented with a report to bring together a summary of the outcome of discussions from all three meetings.