Nicola Sturgeon to set out economic strategy

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Nicola Sturgeon is to warn that Scotland must be “more ambitious” in building a stronger economy.

In a speech to business leaders in Ayrshire, she will argue that the country must accelerate the pace of economic innovation, backed up by investment.

But she will stress that Scotland has “immense economic potential”.

Scottish GDP grew by 0.8% in the first quarter of this year, having shrunk by 0.2% in the previous three months.

The figures meant Scotland outstripped the UK as a whole, which saw growth of just 0.2% in the first three months of the year.

But while the Scottish economy grew by 0.7% over the previous 12 months, the equivalent UK growth was 2%.

‘Immense potential’

Experts at the Fraser of Allander Institute have warned that Scotland’s economy still faces a fragile outlook – particularly when the potential effects of possible higher inflation and any Brexit uncertainty are factored in.

In her speech at Spirit AeroSystems in Prestwick, which manufactures aircraft wing parts, Ms Sturgeon is expected to outline some of the measures in her forthcoming programme for government, which will be formally unveiled next week.

She will say: “Scotland has immense economic potential, but we must be more ambitious, with government, businesses and wider society working together to lead on the key technological and social changes of the future.

“We already invest more than £2bn a year on skills and business support. For enterprise and economic development specifically, we spend £100 a head more than the UK as a whole.

“Yet we must move more quickly to secure our economic future – one that focuses on innovation and inclusion and creates an economy that works for the benefit of all of Scotland’s people.”

‘Distinguished career’

Ahead of the speech, Ms Sturgeon confirmed that Nora Senior, chairwoman of UK regions for global PR firm Weber Shandwick, will chair the new Strategic Board for Enterprise and Skills.

Ms Sturgeon said Ms Senior has had a “hugely distinguished career in business and is the ideal person to lead the new strategic board as it works with business to achieve our shared ambitions for growth”.

The board was announced by Economy Secretary Keith Brown earlier this year, and will be tasked with “aligning the work” of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

It came as Mr Brown confirmed that controversial plans to replace Scotland’s enterprise and training agencies with one national board had been abandoned.

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