A FRESH paper has mapped out the "sheer scale of opportunity" for economic growth in Scotland before and after a vote for independence.

The Roadmap for Scottish Green Industrial Strategy identifies a "window of opportunity" to fully deliver on the potential of the Scottish economy and recommends a renewed focus on growth in the sectors of higher education innovation and alternative energy – two areas where Scotland has a “competitive advantage” according to experts.

It says these areas should be seen as the “first treads on a strategic staircase for growth in value-added and productivity”.

The way this growth can be achieved and monitored in these sectors, the report says,  is through the creation of a Scottish Industrial Strategy Council – a single decision-making body responsible for delivering on growth priorities around green energy provision and university innovation.

This body – which experts say should be launched in a matter of months – would be formed by and led by the First Minister and would be accountable to them.

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The report was commissioned by SNP MP Ian Blackford and was led on by Sir Martin Donnelly (former permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for International Trade and former president of Boeing Europe) and Professor Dominic Houlder (adjunct professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School).

It has been recognised that Scotland has underperformed economically over recent decades compared to similar-sized economies elsewhere in North West Europe, the report says, despite there being “immense potential” for green growth – that is growth “with a transformational environmental and social purpose”.

Donnelly and Houlder have said without a commitment to the creation of a council, “there will not be the step change in Scottish productivity and growth which we all seek in the years ahead”.

Blackford said: “This independent report confirms the sheer scale of opportunity that is now opening up in Scotland to build a greener, wealthier and fairer future. 

“That clear confirmation of Scotland’s economic potential is all the more important in the current context of the UK’s deep difficulties with recent high inflation and high interest rates and its longer-term problems of low growth and low productivity.

The National: The report focuses on achieving economic growth in the alternative energy sectorThe report focuses on achieving economic growth in the alternative energy sector

“This report points the path to a different, more sustainable and stronger economic future, building on the huge assets that already exist in the Scottish academic sector as well as fully utilising the unfolding but immediate potential in green energy and industry.” 

Experts have said there is a “real risk” the higher education sector will produce extraordinary talent but have little impact on the Scottish economy more broadly without a focus on building powerful ecosystems so more businesses can emerge from research and come to scale in Scotland.

It highlights how higher education-based ecosystems exist in the US, Europe and in other areas of the UK, meaning there is a danger talent in science, engineering, technology and maths will be diverted away from Scotland if it doesn’t focus on better collaboration between universities and further education colleges, for example, or shared services across the university sector.

Likewise, in the alternative energy sector, the paper warns that success in generating new sustainable energy could become “largely an export proposition” unless the local supply chain is positioned to benefit from emerging opportunities.

It recommends the council would build on the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation by being responsible for setting out key growth priorities and reviewing progress on these away from the “pressures of day-to-day government business”.

Experts have said the body should meet every three months in Edinburgh and across Scotland and be supported by a “high-powered” secretariat, with membership including the chief economist, chair of the Scottish National Investment Bank, two vice chancellors of Scottish universities and representatives from Scottish business alongside the FM and relevant cabinet secretaries.

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Houlder said: “To deliver higher-value growth and increase productivity, Scotland needs to focus on fundamental economic building blocks where it has a competitive advantage. Developing and leveraging those competitive advantages – actual and potential – can enhance the broader economy and society.

“Scotland’s research universities and alternative energy sector stand out as two such fundamental building blocks, both of which are actually or potentially world-class.

“Those solid foundations are the perfect place upon which to build a Scottish economic success story.”

Donnelly added: “There now exists a clear window of opportunity to bring together expertise from wider Scottish society in support of a step change in Scotland’s sustainable growth. This will require new structures for delivery, the political will to make and keep to decisions on priorities, and continued support from the academic and business communities across Scotland.

“A new, powerful partnership between the Scottish Government and these key sectors and stakeholders can unlock this huge underlying economic potential that will deliver growth in the Scottish economy and deliver prosperity to the Scottish people.”