Supporting and retaining financial services talent in Scotland – what the politicians say

Milly Dent is the SFE Young Professionals Chair and in the Web Experience Platform Team at NatWest Group.

With the Scottish election happening next month, SFE Young Professionals were given the opportunity to attend SFE’s Scottish Election Finance Hustings earlier this week.

We heard from finance spokespeople from the Greens, Labour, Conservatives, SNP and Liberal Democrats about the role of financial services in the economic recovery and their parties’ policies relating to this.

It was a thought-provoking and robust discussion led by Holyrood Magazine Editor Mandy Rhodes and followed the launch of SFE’S first ever Scottish election manifesto, which calls for greater collaboration between business and government to support the recovery.

As the Chair of Scottish Financial Enterprise Young Professionals, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to pose a question to the politicians on behalf of our network.

I asked the speakers about their parties’ plans to ensure all young people in Scotland are given the opportunity to thrive and how they are going to develop, support and retain talent here in Scotland.

Here’s what they said:

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservatives: Focused his answer around wanting to see an apprenticeship revolution [which aims to provide access to every young person that wants an apprenticeship to have one], as well as the Right to Retrain scheme, [a pledge of a £500 grant for each adult across Scotland to have access to learning and training through local colleges for training]. Murdo also touched upon the particularly difficult time the education sector has seen over the past 12 months and the need to support high school students via the proposed Catch-Up Fund which would include a national tutoring programme as well as a major recruitment drive of c3,000 new teachers across Scotland over the course of the next Parliament.

Daniel Johnson, Scottish Labour: Answering the question of how to retain talent in Scotland, Daniel pointed to the need to ensure there is a strong and vibrant financial services sector in Scotland to attract young professionals, and also touched upon the steps that need to be taken to ensure re-training and re-skilling is accessible, particularly as and when the economy changes around us. Daniel concluded that these steps were important for Scotland’s economic recovery, but also ‘the right thing to do’ for Scotland’s people.

Christine Jardine MP, Scottish Liberal Democrats: In Christine’s response to the topic of retaining young professionals in Scotland versus other UK hubs, she urged us not to see London as a competitor but as an ally. Christine highlighted the opportunity for Scotland to work with London to provide opportunities for young professionals. Christine also pointed to a proposed grant of £5,000 per person training bond allocated for Scottish training, careers advice and future proofing of new skills.

Kate Forbes, Scottish National Party:  The event chair, Mandy Rhodes, built on my original question to Kate about how to make Scotland an attractive location with regards to tax. Kate responded to this by highlighting that there are a mix of taxes in Scotland’s toolbox and we can’t consider just one rate or one band of income tax but must look at all taxes. She went on to say the more taxes in the toolbox, the more they can offset and provide incentives while ensuring sufficient revenue is being raised for public services as well as making sure Scotland has a supportive regulatory and tax environment. Kate added the age of people having to pay council tax has been raised to 22 and 100% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors has been extended this year. 

Lorna Slater, Scottish Greens: When asked about the millionaire’s tax proposed by the Greens, Lorna reflected on her own experiences as someone that chose to move to Scotland because of the exciting opportunity to work in world leading technologies – summarising that as long as Scotland continues to provide a long-term, vibrant prospect, young professionals will be attracted. She went on to say wealth taxes needed to be considered as many businesses had done well during the pandemic and it was only reasonable to ask those businesses to recirculate some of that money through the economy to help stop the drift of the rich getting richer and poorer getting poorer.

The hustings event coincided with the launch of SFE’s Scottish election manifesto, ‘Supporting Economic Recovery Through Collaboration’, which calls for collaboration between business and government on issues such as the covid recovery, climate change, skills and inclusion, and securing Scotland’s position as a globally recognised financial services cluster.

I am pleased to see the strong consideration of future skills and talent for Scotland as well as other prominent themes such as climate change. I highly recommend taking a look at the manifesto, which you can read here.

There are also several relevant SFE YP events coming soon that have been set up with a purpose of supporting today’s generation of young professionals in Scotland:

  • The next SFE YP Coffee morning in May aims to connect colleagues across the sector to talk about topics that matter most.
  • SFE YP Peer Mentorship scheme is launching in June and aims to provide mentor and mentee opportunities and resources to our members.
  • More virtual leadership events are in the pipeline.

SFE YP is free to join for everyone working at SFE member firms. Find out more here and sign up to receive our latest news and event invites here.