Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

First of all, if there is a concern about the membership of the task force, I will take that away and we will look to address it. The Scottish Government has no interest in not having everyone involved in a collective effort to do everything that we can to secure jobs and, if it is at all possible, to secure Rolls-Royce’s presence in Scotland.

On what has been done, I spoke to the chief executive of Rolls-Royce a few weeks ago. We have established a working group with the company, which is looking at a number of matters. First, it is considering what the Scottish Government can do in the short term to try to protect jobs. Globally, Rolls-Royce faces huge challenges, given the fall in demand for its products, and I cannot stand here and pretend otherwise. We cannot magic that away, unfortunately, but we have committed to look at what can be done in the short term.

Importantly, the working group is looking at the medium to long term and whether the Rolls-Royce presence in Scotland can be repurposed into, for example, electric provision and technology in future and at what we may be able to do together to provide a bridge between the short term and the medium to longer term. That work is on-going, and, of course, the task force will have a role to play in feeding into that.

We should not see this as the point of tension between us, particularly not between Richard Leonard and me. We are, I hope, absolutely on the same side on the issue.

As we have done in the past with other major parts of our industry that have been under threat, the Scottish Government will leave no stone unturned and will do everything that we can to protect jobs and to retain as many as we feasibly can. However, neither Richard Leonard nor I do anyone any favours if we underplay the particular challenges in the aviation sector right now.

I hope that we are able to work together. As I said at the outset, if there are genuine concerns that we have not got some things right along the way, particularly when it comes to the membership of the task force, I am happy to address that quickly.