Taskforce to close UK economic results gap
Support for Scottish business
Scottish Secretary David Mundell has launched a “business taskforce” to advise the UK Government on economic and industrial policy north of the border.
Former Scotland Office minister Lord Dunlop will chair a group of leading figures with expert knowledge of Scotland’s business and economy, Mr Mundell said yesterday, adding the membership would be announced “shortly”.
He added: “The UK Government’s new Scottish business taskforce will provide expert advice and guidance on how best to strengthen Scotland’s economy.
“We know that Scotland’s economic performance lags behind the rest of UK, and we need to close that gap.
“As we develop our ambitious industrial strategy and negotiate new trade deals with Europe and around the world, this expert panel will provide insight from a range of Scottish business sectors.”
He made the announcement ahead of a trip to Paraguay and Argentina to promote Scottish business interests, and build cultural and educational links.
Scottish firms already do substantial business in South America – Scotch whisky, for example, exports more than £14million and £12million a year to Paraguay and Argentina respectively.
There are also Scottish companies keen to take advantage of opportunities in Paraguay’s dynamic agricultural sector.
Mr Mundell said: “As we prepare to leave the EU, we want to build and strengthen our trade relationships with friends and partners old and new, and I am certain Scottish companies will be at the forefront of this.
“Scotland’s skills, products and services are highly regarded globally, and we can build on that as we strike ambitious new trade deals around the world.
“I am travelling to South America ... to bang the drum for Scottish businesses, taking the message to these markets that Scotland’s companies have the skills, products and expertise they need.” Sterling has leapt to its highest level since the EU referendum result after a Bank of England policymaker hinted he may back an interest rate rise.
The pound continued its remarkable rally from Thursday’s session, pushing 1.4% higher to 1.358 versus the US dollar to clock levels not seen since June 24 last year. Sterling also climbed 0.9% against the euro, to 1.135.
However, the strength of the UK currency heaped more misery on blue-chip stocks, with the FTSE 100 Index falling 79.92 points to 7,215.47.
Bucking the trend was pub group JD Wetherspoon, thanks to growing full-year sales and profits. Shares soared more than 13%, or £1.45 to £11.89.
The biggest fallers were Carnival, down £3.17 to £47.83, Provident Financial off 35.5p at £7.94, Ferguson down £1.52 to £44.86 and Pearson off 18p at 568.5p.
Brent oil was 0.2% higher at $55.57 a barrel on forecasts of increased demand and reports of US refineries kicking back into gear.
BY BEN WOODS