Scottish Enterprise Tayside (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13 March 2003.

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Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour 2:30, 13 March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what recent discussions it has had with Scottish Enterprise Tayside about encouraging enterprise and innovation in Tayside. (S1O-6614)

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The Executive has regular contact with Scottish Enterprise and with its local enterprise companies on matters relating to enterprise and innovation.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour

In answers to previous written questions about the spending and investment decisions of Scottish Enterprise and its local enterprise companies, the minister told me that those were operational matters for Scottish Enterprise. When I turned to my local enterprise company, it told me that I could not get access to that information, because it was commercially confidential. How can MSPs, or anyone else, judge whether the enterprise companies are encouraging enterprise and innovation if we do not get access to the key decisions that they make and if those decisions remain shrouded in secrecy?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I am not sure to which investment decisions Mr McAllion refers. Perhaps the best thing would be for him to write to me and copy his correspondence with Scottish Enterprise Tayside. For 2002-03, Scottish Enterprise Tayside has a budget of £8.7 million. That is a public figure, but it does not include some of the funds that are available through national mechanisms such as the modern apprenticeship scheme, which Scottish Enterprise Tayside has a part in delivering. If Mr McAllion was unable to obtain specific figures, I will pursue the matter if he writes to me again.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Is it not time that the minister conceded that the whole Scottish Enterprise network is completely discredited? The declining economy of many small towns in Tayside would be better served by redirecting some of that money to a reduction in business rates. Is it not time to stop giving the money to public servants to hand out to the favoured few?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Absolutely not. Sticking with Dundee for the moment, we know that Dundee has a number of the most cutting-edge life science companies in the world, such as CXR Biosciences, Cypex and Cyclacel. All those companies have benefited from the Scottish Enterprise biotechnology cluster approach and from support through, for example, the proof-of-concept fund, the small firms merit award for research and technology, and the support for products under research scheme. Those things are driving research and innovation in Dundee and they are entirely worth while. Cutting the support for business is, frankly, the last thing that Dundee needs just now.