Task­force to close UK eco­nomic re­sults gap

Sup­port for Scot­tish busi­ness

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - 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.


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