Scottish Enterprise

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:03 pm on 9th March 2006.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 12:03 pm, 9th March 2006

To ask the First Minister what the outcome has been of recent discussions with Scottish Enterprise regarding its current funding position. (S2F-2162)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Scottish Enterprise has succeeded in encouraging more demand for its services from companies that want to grow in Scotland. Therefore, there are more projects to fund this year than resources allow, which means that Scottish Enterprise is prioritising projects. The prioritisation process will ensure that Scottish Enterprise moves forward with a focus on high-quality projects.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The First Minister is aware that the most recent debacle at Scottish Enterprise has destroyed business confidence in the organisation and further damaged its reputation in Scotland and worldwide for sound financial management. How will he restore confidence in Scottish Enterprise nationally and internationally?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

What would damage the Scottish business community's confidence in Scottish Enterprise most would be the abolition of or a cut in the services of Scottish Enterprise, which the Tories have consistently proposed in recent years. Yet again, I ask for consistency from our opponents. If they believe that Scottish Enterprise should be cut back and that we should do less to support business, they should say so when they ask a question about it.

From a variety of meetings with businesses large and small in recent months, I believe that Scottish Enterprise's leadership enjoys more confidence than it has for a long time. The strategy of prioritising national industries and ensuring a Scottish focus that is designed to grow our economy in the sectors in which we can be more successful is the right direction for Scottish Enterprise. However, that must be balanced by local input, local judgment and local participation. A job is in hand in Scottish Enterprise and in discussion with ministers to achieve the right balance between national and local expenditure and between national and local decision making.

In a country of 5 million people that faces an increasingly competitive global market, if we do not have a clear national focus on the sectors in which we can grow and do not give those priority in the years ahead, we will fail and fall behind.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

We started two and a half minutes late, so I will allow a last question from Alex Neil.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I agree with the First Minister's last statement.

Is it true that £30 million of Scottish Enterprise's budget for next year is to be transferred to this year's budget? If so, what are the implications for next year's projects and programmes?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

The specific amounts are under discussion between the enterprise ministers and Scottish Enterprise. However, I say clearly—as I said in my earlier answer—that one piece of good news in Scotland's economy is that more projects have been proposed than the budget allows for, so Scottish Enterprise has the chance to choose the highest-quality projects. That is good for Scottish Enterprise and for businesses in Scotland. I agree entirely that it will be important to examine the implications of that for next year and I am sure that the details will become clearer in the weeks ahead.

Meeting suspended until 14:15.

On resuming—