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The Government economic strategy is focused on realising Scotland's huge economic potential. The Council of Economic Advisers commented on the strategy at an early stage and recognises the key role that education, educational institutions, skills and lifelong learning will play in meeting the targets in the strategy, including our overarching purpose of sustainable economic growth. The council made a number of initial recommendations to the Scottish Government at its third meeting on 13 June, and it sets out its recommendations in full
The Council of Economic Advisers referred to the need to ensure that students regard education as a personal investment and to the importance of closer links between universities and the business sector. Therefore, does the cabinet secretary agree that it would have been sensible for the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning to have allowed the business sector to be represented on the Government task force that is reviewing the future of our universities?
I reassure Elizabeth Smith that the Government is closely involved in discussion with the business community about the skills needs of the Scottish economy and the business community in particular. On Monday, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and I chaired one of the regular forums of the economic organisations that are involved in planning our contribution to the economic strategy, which include Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council and VisitScotland. We try to ensure that all our policy interventions, particularly those of the funding council and Skills Development Scotland, are closely aligned to the needs of the business community.
The discussion was fruitful and I assure Elizabeth Smith that we benefited from the significant amount of work that Mr Mather in particular has undertaken in engaging directly with the business sector, so that the Government is fully informed about the skills and education requirements of the business community, to which we attach the highest priority.
The work will be taken forward by the Scottish Government in consultation with the Council of Economic Advisers. How the work will be developed is currently a matter of internal consideration. Of course, as with all matters that relate to the Council of Economic Advisers, we will keep the Parliament informed of developments in relation to that recommendation.