Grant Thornton: Scottish businesses see opportunities in Levelling Up agenda

Grant Thornton: Scottish businesses see opportunities in Levelling Up agenda

Joanne Brown

The new Prime Minister’s inbox may well overflow with priorities, but the latest research from Grant Thornton finds that Scotland’s business community sees Levelling Up and boosting investment in Scotland as vitally important.

The policy agenda, the most recent take on decades of debate about how to rebalance the UK economy away from an overheated London and South East, had been a major focus of the outgoing leader Boris Johnson.

New research from Grant Thornton UK’s latest Business Outlook Tracker shows his successor that the vast majority of mid-sized businesses in Scotland believe that the Levelling Up agenda will be beneficial to local business (88%) – 15% higher than the national average of 73%.

The results also show recognition that the Levelling Up agenda cannot be delivered by one sector alone and that UK Plc has a key role to play in its success. Over four in five (86%) of Scotland based respondents see companies like theirs playing an important role in the Levelling Up agenda, significantly higher than the national average (73%).

The results also reflect which of the government’s 12 Levelling Up missions are most important to local businesses. Each mission was identified as one of the top three priorities in a region, at least once, demonstrating the differing issues needing to be addressed across the UK.

Scottish respondents identified the following as the top priorities in their region:

  • Improving people’s wellbeing (36%)
  • Improving digital connectivity (32%)
  • Providing better quality housing (26%) and investing in the provision of high-quality skills training (26%)

Joanne Brown, partner, public services, at Grant Thornton UK LLP in Scotland, commented: “While conversations around Levelling Up are often focused on areas outside Scotland - normally discussing the economic divide between London and towns in the North of England - it’s encouraging to see that businesses here really understand what the government is trying to deliver and see what it can offer to them..

“The agenda offers big opportunities for Scotland and it is interesting that, along with Wales, Scottish businesses were very positive about the opportunities presented by Levelling-up – suggesting that the agenda transcends borders and politics.

“However, there is no doubt that Levelling Up is both crucially important yet extremely demanding to deliver. The scope of the agenda is so vast that it simply cannot be achieved without successful public and private sector collaboration, so it’s reassuring to see the recognition from local businesses that they have a key role to play in the agenda’s success.”

She concluded: “It’s vital though that local authorities also recognise the important contribution businesses can make. There is a clear willing from the Scottish business community to be involved and authorities need to explore how best to engage with local businesses to tackle the most pressing issues in their area, which in Scotland is around improving digital connectivity and the quality of housing providing skills training that enables job progression and improving people’s general wellbeing.”

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