A new forum is being set up by the Scottish Government to reset relations with businesses, following major criticism over policy making.

Poonam Malik, head of investments at Strathclyde University will co-chair the New Deal for Business Group. The role will be shared by Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray.

The forum will include business leaders and representatives.

The BBC says the move is seen as an attempt to reset relations between the business community and ministers, which have been strained over issues such as the deposit-return scheme, alcohol marketing and regulation.

The group, promised by Humza Yousaf after he became first minister, will meet for the first time tomorrow.

One of its key aims is to involve businesses at an early stage of government policy development.

Reset desperately needed

Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that a reset in relations between ministers and business was "desperately required".

He said: "So far the government this year has found itself at loggerheads with distillers, brewers, the private rented sector, the fishing industry and the oil and gas industry and it's only May.

"And the reason behind each of these has been a policy proposal or a decision. So clearly things have not been working.

"We need business and government to work together and co-design policies that are going to deliver jobs and prosperity for Scotland."

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium, thought the creation of the group was a tacit admission that things had gone wrong.

He said: "I think it can be characterised by pretty bruising exchanges between the business community and government, and that's partly because businesses are reeling from external factors, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, global inflation.

Government not helping

"These things have made business really difficult, but, bluntly, the government hasn't really been helping. Instead what we've got is a welter of new and very expensive initiatives...whether that's the deposit-return scheme, alcohol marketing."

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray is committed to improving the relationship between government and business.

He said: "We're responding to the concerns that have been raised by the business community, where we've obviously had to pause the rollout of the deposit-return scheme.

"We're looking to ensure we get the alcohol-advertising scheme working well.

"I think what we're needing to do is to make sure we are responding to the concerns of business in terms of elements of regulation that they would want to see done differently.

"So we're going to be agreeing ways to involve business at the earliest stages of policy development to ensure that it is effective and proportionate."

Economic challenges

Dr Malik, a board member of Skills Development Scotland as well as a climate champion for Scottish Enterprise, said the establishment of the group was "timely, given external turbulences and big economic challenges".

She added: "My experience has shown me that improved collaboration and meaningful engagement can bring about positive change in growing economies and support businesses with purpose to have a positive impact on communities."

The forum will focus on four areas - economic conditions and performance; ensuring the best environment to do business; and a transition to a wellbeing economy.

Its goals include improving the development and implementation of regulation, which will be taken forward by the Scottish Government's Joint Regulatory Taskforce.

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