BREXIT and the Budget were at the forefront of the discussion when Chamber members from leisure and tourism, professional services, business services and manufacturing met Lord Ian Duncan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Scotland Office. On BREXIT, Lord Duncan emphasised how important he thought it was for the rest of the EU to reach a deal with the UK to protect their own regional and sectoral economies from suffering extensive damage when the UK leaves, because of the huge contribution that the UK makes to the EU’s budget.
Our Bank of England Panel met again in November and members were able to update the Bank on trading conditions and prospects in Fife. Our Chief Executive also attended a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) meeting in Glasgow. It brought together representatives from all the Scottish chambers that are affiliated to the BCC and SNP MPs and MSPs.
We will expand our programme of events to influence public policy and let more members raise their concerns directly with senior politicians. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance has already agreed to meet us and that will no doubt be a very lively discussion following the Scottish Government’s recent paper outlining potential scenarios for increasing income tax to boost public spending and public sector wages. We will be working with colleagues at the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to produce a collective chamber of commerce response to these proposals.
Members from across a range of different sectors were also able to discuss wide ranging issues when they met Keith Brown, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Economy in October. BREXIT again featured highly, especially how it might impact on migration and the potential danger to the Fife economy if our businesses are not able to attract migrant labour to the same extent they have become used to in recent years.
Getting people with the right skills comes up at all of our member roundtables and it is one of the biggest challenges that our members are facing and if it is exacerbated by overly restrictive immigration rules following BREXIT it will become a serious obstacle to business growth. That is why it is even more important that we develop home-grown talent and the Developing Young Workforce (DWY) initiative is critical. DYW Fife has launched a new campaign to encourage more local businesses to get involved with local schools. There are many different ways to play a part and these are set out in a new brochure that you can access at www.fifedirect.org.uk/DYW.
I am delighted that the last few weeks have seen important milestones reached by the Chamber. Fifteen companies joined last month and that brought the number of companies that have signed up in the last 12 months to over 100. I would like to thank all of those companies and all of the organisations who renewed their membership in 2017 for the confidence they have shown in the Chamber.
Our membership is growing, our event programme is letting more people make valuable new connections and our political influence is growing, and we are looking forward to an exciting year ahead.