Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has said support from economic development agencies like Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is vital if Scotland is to achieve its net zero ambitions.
The Scottish Conservative MSP, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee, made his remarks after the committee took evidence from businesses at Holyrood earlier this week (Wednesday).
Mr Halcro Johnston, who is his party’s spokesman on Business and Enterprise, said: “Scotland has committed to reach net zero by 2045, but these targets will not be met unless business is given the advice and support it needs. While there is real passion from many business leaders – and good progress from some businesses - there are still too many which, for whatever reasons, are not engaging yet with the process."
“Citizens’ Advice Scotland found in May of this year that 52% of Scotland’s SMEs have taken no action to decarbonise as yet, while Highlands and Islands Enterprise said progress in our region was a “mixed picture”. It was striking how many references were made to the importance of the role of the enterprise agencies in supporting businesses take the actions necessary, and this will be particularly important in the Highlands and Islands where we have many smaller businesses."
“There is also the issue of how businesses balance recovery from the pandemic and the need to progress to net zero, with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warning that businesses currently in “survival mode” would clearly find it harder to focus on decarbonisation. Businesses across the Highlands and Islands will need clear and targeted support if Scotland is to meet its net zero ambitions. And in that, the Scottish Government must ensure the public agencies are ready to step up”.
Mr Halcro Johnston also warned that continued poor access to broadband could act as a brake on progress, an issue highlighted by some of the witnesses, commenting that “Businesses can’t be expected to modernise if the basic infrastructure they need to do so is lacking. it’s all very well encouraging them to engage more digitally, but if broadband capacity where they’re based isn’t up to the job then that’s a non-starter. 2
“Too often, despite 14 years of promises from SNP ministers, access to fast and reliable broadband remains patchy at best. We need to see progress from the Scottish Government on the roll-out of broadband in rural Scotland, as well as real improvements in many communities across the Highlands and Islands”.
Jamie Halcro Johnston’s questions can be viewed here from approx. 12:30:10: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/economy-and-fair-work-committee-october-6-2021