SCOTLAND’S economic potential will be “unleashed” when Humza Yousaf unveils his political vision this week, a senior minister has said.

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray told the BBC’s Sunday Show that the First Minister’s major keynote speech setting out the annual Programme for Government (PfG) on Tuesday would include announcements on renewable energy and getting “people into work”.

Conceding the SNP had lost the confidence of Scotland’s business community, Gray said the Government was working to “reset” the relationship with the private sector and pledged to make the country a better place to do business.

The Scottish Government is officially committed to the concept of a wellbeing economy, where other metrics like the health and happiness of the population are used as measures of policy success as well as the conventional metric of economic growth.

But Gray stressed the SNP were still committed to pursuing economic growth – which will put the party at odds with their coalition partners the Scottish Greens, who consider the concept “a relic of outdated economic thinking that is driving the destruction of the planet”.

'Unleashing Scotland's potential' 

Asked what the public could expect from Yousaf’s announcement on Tuesday, Gray (below) told the BBC: “There’s a lot in this PfG for people that are interested in the economy to be excited about.

The National: Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy Neil Gray

“We’re looking to make sure that we are doing what we can, within the powers that we have, to unleash economic potential whether that is in renewable energy or supporting our first-class business, ensuring that they have a good operating base, a good landscape within which to do business, supporting people to start their own business and supporting people into work to ensure that we have the labour market supply there to ensure our businesses continue to thrive and flourish.”

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Host Martin Geissler pressed the minister on a recent survey which found that just 9% of businesses thought the Scottish Government understood their concerns.

Gray pointed to the Government’s creation of the New Deal for Business Group, chaired by Dr Poonam Malik and said he had conducted more than 75 meetings with businesses of all sizes.

“I’m very pleased about the very fast-paced work that has been done there and credit to Dr Punam Malik and all of those that were on the new deal for business group for coming forward with a range of suggestions that we, that the First Minister has agreed to and there is now an implementation plan ongoing,” he said.

'Rebuilding trust with business' 

Challenged again on the findings of the survey and asked why trust between the Government and industry had broken down, Gray said: “There’s two things to say about that Martin.

"First of all: I do care, the Government does care about business.

"We know that we cannot have a good society without a good economy and vice versa, so obviously we’re wanting to make sure that we support our private sector partners and businesses to ensure that they can continue to grow, continue to make investments that will make the difference in us building a wellbeing economy.

"But also secondly, you’re right. It does take time to rebuild trust and we’re going to be judged on our actions not just our words and I very much understand that, that’s why this summer recess I’ve engaged in more than 75 external engagements, a lot of those with individual businesses as well as representative organisations, listening to them, understanding the issues that they have right now, the cost of living crisis is impacting them massively, the interest rate rises, the Westminster-controlled cost of living crisis is having a devastating impact on our businesses.”

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Asked whether he supported the pursuit of economic growth, Gray said he wanted to see an economy which was “fair, green and growing”.

He said: “We are a party of economic growth.

"We say that we want to build a wellbeing economy, a wellbeing economy that is fair, green and growing and it appears that both Labour and the Tories have abandoned the first two parts of that, which is fair and green.

"We will continue to espouse an economy that is working for its people but we have to have the interests of businesses at heart as well because they do generate the wealth that we need to ensure that we continue to invest in public services.”

The minister would not be drawn on whether the plans outlined in the PfG later this week would necessitate tax rises.

One announcement expected in the major parliamentary set piece are measures to encourage employers to move to a four day week, The Herald on Sunday reported.

The paper reported that Yousaf was expected to confirm a four-day working week would be piloted within parts of the public sector by the end of the calendar year.