The SNP’s Ian Blackford has launched a roadmap for Scotland’s green industrial future, calling on the Scottish Government to exploit “the massive opportunity” that exists in higher education.
The independent report, Roadmap for a Scottish Green industrial Strategy, published on Friday, was commissioned by the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP and was led by former top civil servant Sir Martin Donnelly and London-based academic Professor Dominic Houlder.
It recommends two steps to unlock Scotland potential: a specific focus on higher education and alternative energy; and the formation of a new partnership between key economic sectors and the Scottish Government.
Speaking to the PA news agency about the report, the SNP’s former leader at Westminster said: “There is a massive opportunity that exists in academia that’s not been exploited, the Government has to get its arms around that.”
Prof Houlder, of the London Business School, added: “We produce fantastic graduates and great intellectual property, but it doesn’t land in Scotland.
“It lands elsewhere, whether we are talking about Cambridge, UK, or whether we are talking about Boston, USA.”
He stressed the importance of hard infrastructure and financial infrastructure, but also of communities, saying: “If I’m a postdoctoral student, do I have good housing opportunities open to me? Good educational opportunities open to my kids? That’s all the kind of soft infrastructure, which creates the stickiness that we are after.
“All of that implies a degree of collaboration between universities, between universities in the finance sector and between the Scottish government.”
On the formation of a new Scottish Industrial Strategy Council, formed, led and accountable to the First Minister, Sir Martin said: “Getting one of the key decision makers and experts in one room, in an executive council, which is going to meet every three months, not just in Edinburgh, but around Scotland, gives you the opportunity to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
“And that decisions can be taken rapidly on the basis of the best information and that people know what else is happening. And just putting that together, giving a stable framework is very powerful for harnessing success.”
Sir Martin is a former permanent secretary at the department for international trade and the current president of commercial aircraft manufacturer Boeing Europe.
Asked about how his report ties in with Scottish independence, Blackford said: “This report is an independent report.
“It is about how we get the economy in Scotland moving. We have talked in the report about some of the things we could do under the devolution settlement but we do highlight some of the things we could do if Scotland was independent.
“I think what the SNP will do is ensure that we have the answers in terms of growing the economy in a sustainable way. Here is a roadmap. Here is a plan. And on the back of that there will be a discussion about independence.”
He said he would expect the Scottish government to study the report “carefully” and respond within a few months, adding: “We have had rather constructive discussions with colleagues.
“And I would say that certainly when it comes to ourselves and the First Minister, I think in general, there’s a high degree of meeting of minds.”
After five years on the Westminster frontbenches, Blackford took on the role of SNP’s business ambassador.
Before becoming a politician, he spent more than 20 years working in the finance industry.
Last month, he announced he will be standing down as an MP at the next general election but said he looks forward to “playing my part in the continuing campaign for Scottish independence and supporting our First Minister and the SNP as we go forward to the next election and beyond”.