Building Inclusive Growth in Scotland - RSA

Building Inclusive Growth in Scotland

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    Brian Mcleish
    Stakeholder engagement for Scottish Enterprise
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  • Picture of Duncan Booker
    Duncan Booker
  • Fellowship in Action

The newly formed Building Inclusive Growth (BIG) network met for the first time last week. As is appropriate for a new network we raised a number of questions – why inclusive growth, why Scotland and why now?

In policy circles around the world, from the USA to Brussels, from the OECD to the IMF, inclusive growth is increasingly part of the conversation. The prospect of a lengthy period of low growth, coupled with high levels of income inequality and increasing levels of wealth inequality has brought this issue to the front of the line. However, there is considerable disagreement over what is meant by the term itself, the concept of ‘inclusivity’ being highly fragmented, diverse and subject to wide interpretation. At the first meeting someone quoted Neil McInroy, Chief Exec of the Centre for Local Economies, in saying that “inclusive growth” has a tendency to focus on growth at the expense of inclusivity and prefers the term inclusive economies. A top priority of this network at the early stages is agreeing precisely what we mean by inclusive growth and how this relates to the Scottish economy.

This brings us neatly to why now is such a crucial time. The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission is starting to gear up and there is a genuine opportunity for a Scottish network of Fellows to have a real influence on its deliberations. Given the political, institutional and policy differences extant in Scotland, it is vital that we have a say, to ensure the Inclusive Growth Commission is truly UK-wide.

Scotland is in a particularly interesting place with regards inclusive growth. The enhanced powers of devolution and the prospect of further reform of local government mean that we have most of the policy tools at our disposal to deliver a more inclusive economy. Further, the current Scottish Government has already placed inclusive growth front and centre in their economic development policy and strategy.

The nascent network has already excited interest among potential collaborators and partners, both within Scotland, such as the Scotwest Credit Union, and across the UK, such as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth at Westminster. There is no equivalent group at Holyrood but maybe that could be something the BIG network could investigate?

Public policy, and place especially, dominated our discussion at the launch event but we must not lose sight of the role that business must play in this. In short, unless and until the private see inclusive growth as ‘business as usual’ we will never be able to deliver true inclusivity. This requires a culture shift to enable businesses to see the benefits of a more inclusive approach. Increasing evidence, from the Fair Work Convention in Scotland to the B Corp movement in the USA, is demonstrating that inclusive business practices can lead to a win-win-win, for businesses, for their employees, and for society as large.

It is not acceptable that this network be merely a talking shop, where we sit around and congratulate each other on our clever ideas, for it is nothing if we do not seek to bring about genuine change – improved public policy, a more inclusive business culture, and, most importantly, the raising of the aspirations and attainment of those most disadvantaged in our society, particular among the young. We are neither discussing nor considering inclusive growth, we are Building Inclusive Growth.

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  • Charlotte Alldritt of the RSA has just posted her blogpiece, 'Get Bradford off the branch line for diverse, incljusive growth'.  I posted a response that reflects some relevant comments made by our guest speaker at the BIG network launch in June. Fellows interested in BIG may wish to see the response copied below:

    Is the big problem for urban UK the challenge on re-building the place and roles of the UK's smaller cities and larger towns? Is, moreover, that challenge in danger of becoming an intractable one? I'm coming around to the view that the city region perspective is the most-likely-to-work option. This was supported by the arguments of lead speaker at our recent launch of the BIG (building Inclusive Growth) Fellows network in Scotland. The speaker was Gordon Matheson MBE,Visiting Professor at the Institute for Future Cities at University of Strathclyde. He is also the ex leader of the City of Glasgow Council and therefore well equipped to offer comment. He began by stating, unequivocally, 'I am a cities man!'. He then went on to elaborate a perhaps more nuanced view whereby cities and adjacent towns can and do best when they grow together. He argued that it need not be the case that a city at the heart of a region can only grow at the cost of the prospects of the adjacent towns. Indeed, the city can be a supporter, even a catalyst of growth in the towns. The speaker reiterated his arguments at the subsequent  (excellent) session of the RSA Commission on Inclusive Growth in Edinburgh this month. The contrasting views aired at the session on the respective merits of city and/or town growth demonstrate that we are as yet some way to go to arrive at  consensus on this theme. The RSA Commission is proving to be a timely sounding board for the airing of these views in pursuit of, hopefully, some sort of consensus across the UK.

  • Fellows may find useful this  event in Glasgow, It's eclectic and a series ofsnapshots intended simply to illustrate the range of possiblepathways of policy, study and practice under the broad theme. Any suggestions or contributions from other Fellows on additions would be welcomed:

    Quick'n Dirty Bibliography on contemporary 'inclusive growth' discourse:


    FirstMinister Scottish Government, speech at opening of the new ScottishParliament 2016, 'Priorities Speech; Taking Scotland Forward.'Includes;

    'Wemust continue to grow an economy that is strong, sustainable, fairand inclusive.'

    The-thenDeputy First Minister's speech on inclusive growth to Bruegel(European think tank, Brussels]. Includes; 'What we increasinglyrecognise in the Scottish Government is that those two challenges –of competitiveness and equality – aren’t separate issues... wewill focus on 4 key priorities...: investment, innovation,internationalisation and inclusive growth.

    'AchievingA Sustainable Future'. Scottish Government strategy:

    'InclusiveGrowth. Developing Scotland's Talented Workforce. Scottish Enterprisewebsite.

    'InclusiveGrowth in Scotland.' Gary Gillespie, Chief Economist ScottishEnterprise at University of Glasgow.


    'SocialEnterprises Inclusive Growth. Scotland's Economic Strategy.' GaryGillespie, Chief Economist Scottish Enterprise to CEIS.

    'TheChallenge of Inclusive Growth for the Scottish Economy.' DavidWilson, International Public Policy Institute, University ofStrathclyde

    'Whatdoes the future hold for the Scottish economy?' Scottish ParliamentInformation Centre (SPICe).

    'Choosinga strategy for Scotland's economic growth.' Brian Ashcroft, EmeritusProfessor at Strathclyde Business School and the Economics Editor ofthe Fraser of Allander Institute Economic Commentary.

    'Scotland’slabour market: "job polarisation" and inclusive growth'.GailRogers and Kenny Richmond, Scottish Enterprise inFraser of Allander Institute Economic Commentary, Vol 39 No 1 2015,pp85-97

    Economicsand Work

    'TheNorthern Power House can foster inclusive growth... but it must gofurther to foster genuinely inclusive growth.' Dave Innes, policy andresearch manager (economics) Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

    'HighSpeed Diversity.' Mark Lomas, head of equality, diversity andinclusion at HS2 Ltd, highlights how his organisation is addressingdiversity issues.

    'StuntedGrowth. Mystery of the UK production crisis.' Duncan Weldon, Head ofResearch, Resolution Foundation.

    Financialincentives and their potential to drive inclusive growth. This JosephRowantree Foundation (JRF) paper considers the use of financialincentives by government.

    Localprotectionism is no way to raise economic growth in poor places - acritique of inclusive growth. Polemic by blogger (England) SimonCook.

    'Pre-distributionand monetary policy'. Argument that. 'Centralbanks' drive to stabilise inflation in an increasingly globalisedworld has distorted the distribution of income... and...nflationtargeting is indirectly redistributing income from labour tocapital.' Centre for ProgressiveCapitalism website article.

    'TheThird Way: Share-The-Gains Capitalism.' Robert Reich in Social Europejournal.


    Buildingthe Northern Powerhouse

    Lessonsfrom the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad - must focus on cities.

    Technologyis the answer, but what was the question?” On art, smart cities andbringing people together." Blog piece on City Metric.

    Citiesare engines. Inclusive cities are productive cities. Urbanisation hasthe potential drive global growth, but it requires viewingimmigration and population growth as positive, and actingaccordingly.

    'Housingfor inclusive cities; the economic impact of high housing costs.'

    TheGlobal Cities Business Alliance (GCBA), launched in June 2015 sharesknowledge between cities and focuses on the role businesses can playin urban development.

    TheInclusive Growth in Cities campaign launch in 2015 was hosted by theFord Foundation and the OECD. The campaign is aimed at highlightinginnovative ideas and smart strategies for tackling rising inequalityand fostering inclusive growth.

    Governanceand Sustainability 

    AreGood Corporate Citizens Rewarded? According to a new study, ofFortune 500 firms, the answer is a decided yes. Article in Strategyand Business journal.

    WPPSustainability Report

    Thewhere, what and why of [UK] devolution - what it means forinfrastructure [has good copy about governance and structures].

    'Localauthority agencies operating as charities should not be allowed toregister as charities with OSCR.' Report on views of John Downie,director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for VoluntaryOrganisations (SCVO).

    'Companiesface a host of new challenges. Is the composition of their boardsadapting fast enough to meet them? Centre for Progressive Capitalism website article:

    Thefuture of corporate reporting, the Sustainable Development Goals andcapital markets

    'TheUK’s leading business schools do not give enough emphasis to theprinciples of corporate governance that could stand students in goodstead as future business leaders...' Study carried about by ICSA: TheGovernance Institute, London:


    Missioncreep and the House of Commons Committee on Standards in Public Life;why it's time for a new approach...', by AlanDoig Hon. Senior Research Fellow at the International DevelopmentDepartment, University of Birmingham; Visiting Professor, NewcastleBusiness School, Northumbria University. Blog piece in:

    'IdeasThat Work...Thedefinition of an ideal board of directors is changing. Improving thequality of board conversations is a high-leverage way to improve thestrategic prospects of a company...' Feature in Strategy &Business journal.

    'Isit all going pear-shaped?' Topical polemic in which it is claimed, 'Afull frontal assault on public service professionals by ministers andWhitehall is hammering morale and weakening public trust.' RobWhiteman, CEO of CIPFA in Public Finance journal.


    Empoweringplanning to deliver great places’

    'Planningsystem needs to be more inclusive, says report'. Feature article inHolyrood magazine.

    RSAWebsite and Fellows blogs

    TheRSA Inclusive Growth Commission is an independent, impactful inquirydesigned to understand and identify practical ways to make localeconomies across the UK more economically inclusive and prosperous.

    Inclusivegrowth for more dynamic, resilient communities.

    Inclusivegrowth what it can mean for people and places.

    InclusiveGrowth is not an abstract issue...

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