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SFDF: Slow, difficult recovery

15 April 2011

The recent Scottish Parliamentary elections come at a critical time for Scotland. The economy is recovering but it's a slow and difficult recovery and one that is by no means assured.

The impact of the public sector spending cuts has still to be felt and there are many big issues that may still come to a head such as inflation, the increasing cost of doing business in the UK, including fuel duty, as well as issues around food production and food security.

That is why we have set out clearly in our SFDF Manifesto the priorities for the food and drink manufacturing industry and where we think Government support could help boost our potential.

Food and drink manufacturing in Scotland generates annual sales in excess of £8 billion, exports goods worth over £4 billion and employs around 50,000 people. This not only brings direct benefits to the economy but also enables the promotion of Scotland through the food and drink we make.

As a manufacturing industry, we also have an important role in rebalancing the economy and in improving the balance of trade through exports growth. So for industry, it is a no-brainer that economic growth should be the top priority for the incoming Scottish Government, but how can the rhetoric be translated into reality?

Manufacturers hold the key to unlocking the potential for growth, adding value through innovation and supporting other parts of the supply chain.

Therefore, for our sector, government providing targeted support to help companies export, taking action on high costs such as tax and fuel duty and making relationships between retailers and manufacturers fairer by establishing a Grocery Code Adjudicator is what really matters.

We're simply asking Government to put in place a framework that will enable industry to be successful and to grow. Therefore, investing in infrastructure is critical, whether in road, rail or ports or in an energy network that is fit for purpose.

Also key to the success of our industry is having the skills and knowledge that will drive innovation and deliver growth. This is why we are calling on Government to help us match skills and qualifications to industry’s needs. When manufacturing companies have to recruit food technologists from outside of the UK, there is clearly a problem with the availability of expertise that needs to be addressed.

Young people often have a negative perception of the food manufacturing sector. We want to teach young people about the reality of our industry. Therefore, we're calling for Government support to help us recruit skills ambassadors for our industry, people from within our industry that are passionate about what they do and who will help us to tell the story about the rewarding careers on offer.

Innovation is vital to the success of our industry. As we compete with manufacturers across the world, investment in innovation is at the heart of maintaining our competitiveness. As an industry we're well known for innovating to meet continual changes in consumer demand.

But we must take a broader perspective on innovation – not just the processes that manufacturers use but the technologies as well. Improved access to research and also simplified funding streams would make it easier for businesses to invest. We are also calling for an innovation network to bring together academia and industry in one room to improve collaboration.

For us as an industry, all these issues are vital to our continued success. We recognise the current climate that we are operating within. However, for public investment to be most effective, we believe that it should be targeted where it can make the biggest difference. This will benefit our industry and the economy as a whole.

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