The Scottish Government this week announced its own version of the English Enterprise Zones. There wasn't a great amount of detail to go over but there are pro's and con's to the approach.
Anthony Aitken is head of planning at Colliers International
As is becoming customary these days, the Scottish government wish to do things differently from the UK Government. As opposed to a geographical focus of the new Enterprise Zones in England, the Scots have taken a sectoral approach. This approach had been widely hinted in various government ministers' responses to questions on the matter, so it did not present a surprise in that sense.
There are four sectors: life sciences, low carbon/renewables (north/east) and general manufacturing/growth sectors. Whilst this provides a clear focus to the industries involved in these sectors, the detail and practicalities of the Enterprise Zones has still to be divulged.
The Scottish government's aim is growth and jobs. The concern expressed by commentators is the focus being placed on these four sectors (which could be defined as three sectors in the true sense of the word) and will this result in other opportunities being missed.
However, whilst there will be an overarching sectoral focus for Enterprise Zones, there is in addition a very prescriptive geographical focus for each sector. The English approach varies from significant sites to conurbations and covers a far larger geographical area. The aim of Scottish Government will be to obtain clusters of industries in these sectors in these precise geographical areas that will create new jobs. Learning from the 1980's Enterprise Zones, the aim is to avoid displacement of jobs with few new jobs actually being created.
Time will tell which approach will work. Will history repeat itself and lead to job displacement as the result of geographical focus? Or will the sectoral approach be too narrow a focus.
In examining the precise geographical areas that underpin the Scottish Governments sectoral approach, there are clearly already winners and losers. My own immediate reaction to the sites listed was: 'Where is Fife?'
With Methil Energy Park (which Scottish Enterprise have helped fund) and the potential at Rosyth and Halbeath in Dunfermline, I am surprised that Fife has not been included geographically. Perhaps these matters may be included when further details are released but not being geographical identified is an inauspicious start for Fife. There will be other geographical areas that will express similar concerns.
A wider question worthy of consideration is for industries in the identified Scottish sectors that lie outwith the geographical area. Will they feel compelled to relocate and will this not represent job displacement, similar to the 1980's. The relocation of jobs and associated costs does not serve the purpose of an Enterprise Zone.
As ever the 'devil will be in the detail'. It will be interesting to note the different approaches north and south of the border and which hopefully both succeed in creating growth and new jobs.