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Macro and micro coming together

Brian Taylor | 12:26 UK time, Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Macro and micro. More economic developments in Scotland today as world leaders gather for the G20 in London.

Forget, for a moment, the Presidential cavalcade pursuing Barack Obama and the rather more modest retinues attached to the other leaders.

Set aside, for now, the concomitant, disparate protests.

Consider the core objective - to find a common route, if possible, out of recession.

The current economic crisis has prompted comparison with the 1930s. In 1933, a Scottish prime minister, Ramsay Macdonald, convened an economic summit of 66 countries in London.

The object of the London Monetary and Economic Conference, as now, was to revive global trade and stabilise markets.

But the initiative collapsed because the new US President Franklin D Roosevelt, replacing a deeply unpopular predecessor, refused to compromise, fearing that his power to act independently in American interests would be jeopardised.

This morning President Obama insisted that talk of division between the US and the EU (Britain apart) had been overstated in a search for "drama".

Real challenge

Alert to European and other sensitivities, he described the US as a "peer" to fellow nations in the G20. Equal, perhaps, but notably more equal than the remainder.

And those Scottish micro developments? A decline in exports - down by 2.8% overall in the fourth quarter of 2008, with a fall of 9.6% in manufactured export sales.

A statistical reminder of a real challenge.

The full implementation from today of the Scottish Government's cut in business rates, hailed as a "landmark" by the Federation of Small Businesses.

It should abolish rates for some 12,000 firms and cut them back for a further 30,000.

Plus further controversy at Holyrood over the Scottish Futures Trust which is designed to find innovative ways of investing in schools, hospitals, roads and the rest.

Labour says it's a costly quango whose board has met just twice since it was established last autumn.

Scottish ministers say it's working hard to generate investment - but that other avenues are being pursued and that Scotland is relatively well placed, with the slowdown in construction more marked south of the border.

While subjecting all these developments to close scrutiny, we can but hope that the macro and micro elements come together.

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