SCAPE Scotland's 2023 Economic Forum

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Our industry is facing increasing challenges; from squeezes on public sector finances to decarbonising the built environment and the widening skills gap, there are issues to tackle - with increasingly smaller budgets, fewer people and less time.

After positive feedback last year, we were delighted to host our second annual Economic Forum recently at the Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh. The event brought together over 130 leading voices from our framework partners, clients, senior representatives from the Scottish and UK Governments, local authorities, universities and the wider public and private sectors.

Chaired by veteran broadcaster Sally Magnusson, we had three panel discussions between groups of experts to tackle the issues of decarbonisation, social value and regeneration – all critical areas for the built environment and procurement.

We were delighted to welcome so many delegates and insightful panellists, as well as key-note speaker Monica Lennon, MSP. As chair of the Cross-Party Group at the Scottish Parliament on Construction and a member of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee and a background in environmental planning, it’s no surprise Ms Lennon delivered an impassioned speech, which set the tone for the rest of the event.

During her address, she recognised SCAPE Scotland's commitment to improving the built environment, creating social value and community wellbeing, alongside the challenges that come with it, saying:

I agree with SCAPE Scotland that there are opportunities to make procurement count for every client, for local communities, for the economy and for Scotland. People can also see the potential ahead for long-term, secure jobs in a new wellbeing economy. But the right pathways must be in place. All communities must feel the benefit of infrastructure and investment. That means money spent locally staying in the local economy."

Monica Lennon
Member of the Scottish Parliament

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Our first panel explored decarbonisation and some of the key challenges the construction industry faces on the road to net zero such as costs and implementing new technology, issues that affect both the public and private sector.

Financial investment is crucial for climate interventions but that economic benefits can be realised in the long term.

From the discussion, it is clear that the collective drive is there, that the industry is beginning to work together and share knowledge which is encouraging but we all have a long road ahead in overcoming the challenges posed by the transition to net zero.

Social value

During our next panel, which looked at Social Value, we discussed the question “do we really know enough about our communities to deliver meaningful social value?”

As an industry we have a duty to give back and the panel highlighted the importance of engaging with the communities where we work. Opening a dialogue provides the opportunity for meaningful engagement.

We also heard that Scotland has the opportunity to set the agenda in best practice approach when it comes to community benefit.


Regeneration projects play a key role in economic development and the sustainable use of existing land but different projects come with different challenges. Again, the panel agreed that communication and collaboration are key to delivering successful outcomes for communities.

We heard that the smallest changes often have the biggest impact, which are key to unlocking the positive community legacies that demonstrate real value for money.

One of the golden threads running throughout all of the discussions was collaboration. It was clear that trusted relationships are the key to addressing and actively managing shared challenges.

It has always been our ethos to work collaboratively with our clients and partners and to build strong, meaningful relationships that are built on mutual transparency and trust. An environment where everyone is working towards the same objectives, but brings different skills, experiences and constructive challenge to the table is, in our experience, the most effective way to create solutions.

We hope that for those who joined us for the event, you found the networking opportunities useful and that they will lead to building those very relationships which will ultimately set the right foundations for great things to happen.

The panellists

We'd like to thank all our panellists for their expertise and insights.

Decarbonisation: Introduced by Graham Smith, Head of Investment, International and Innovation at Glasgow City Council. Panellists Richard Orr, Head of Asset and Regeneration at River Clyde Homes, Angela Pllu, Senior Environmental Sustainability Manager for Balfour Beatty, Jonathan Holyoak, Global Engineering Net Zero Programme Director at AtkinsRéalis and Carl Rushton, Group Head of Sustainability at McLaughlin & Harvey.

Social value: Gordon Mole, from Fife Council for his introduction and being a panellist, Julie Marshall-Wilson from the Cabinet Office, Elizabeth Halliday of Morgan Sindall and Becky McLean from Triskelion - one of our SCAPE Scotland Consultancy Framework partners.

Regeneration: Allan Maguire, Head of Economic Development at The Highland Council for his introduction and being a panellist, Peter Manners-Smith, Director, Fund Manager, M&G Real Estate, Jayne Hettle, Managing Director, Design and Business Services at Kier, Amy Carroll, Economics Lead for Arup and Graham Ross, Chief Executive at Austin-Smith:Lord, focussed on the subject of regeneration.

SCAPE Scotland: working for you

Lillian McDowall is SCAPE Scotland’s Head of Business Development. She plays a pivotal role in supporting councils, local authorities, and other public sector organisations as they look to boost the nation's economic recovery. This includes providing greater access to SCAPE Scotland’s innovative suite of construction, civil engineering, and consultancy frameworks to generate community benefits and drive economic growth.