AT the same time as I am writing this piece the Prime Minister and her cabinet are assembled at Chequers discussing how to make progress re Brexit. Nobody can forecast the outcome, even before negotiations begin with the EU. Hence, despite this subject’s all-consuming importance, I must look elsewhere for my commentary.

First, consider some good news on the Scottish economic governance front. The Scottish Fiscal Commission is really finding its feet. The SFC has only been implementing activity related to its new and much enhanced role for a relatively few months. But already this is making a huge difference – for the good.

We now receive regular economic forecasts for Scotland, which are perforce to be used by Government in its budgetary, etc. role, and are as sound as can be hoped for. Almost by definition all economic forecasts will be proved wrong to some (unpredictable) extent, but it is crucial to see sensible central expectations as well as discussion of key risks and plausible alternative scenarios. The well-considered and readily accessible commentary from the SFC is as important as the forecasts per se.

We also see objective and informed forecasts of Government revenue streams, which again have to be used by the Finance Minister. The production of these forecasts is a major, tough, but vital task for the SFC, but thus far the developing institution is proving up to the challenge. One other welcome development is the increased capacity at the Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University. The FAI now has the capability and the will to provide informed, objective and accessible commentary on Government analysis and statistics and also the work of the Fiscal Commission. The FAI can play a role in Scotland equal in importance to that of the Institute for Fiscal Studies regarding forecasts et al from the UK Government and the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.

SFC/IFS/FAI/OBR may sound like a complex recipe for alphabet soup, but these wholly independent institutions lay the foundations for sound policy making on economic and fiscal matters.

Another welcome development this year is the production, by Government but in liaison with SFC and Audit Scotland, of a Medium Term Financial Strategy – published and debated well in advance of Budget decisions. I was fortunate enough to be involved in discussions at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on this MTFS (apologies for even more initials) and am convinced that such informed debate must be of value. This applies both in the medium term, in preparing for the annual Budget, and in the longer term as key issues for the public finances emerge, related to actual and potential economic performance. As also became clear in recent discussion of Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission report, without accelerated growth there will be major and damaging constraints on our public finances within a few short years.

Which takes us back to the old conundrum of how to raise economic growth – preferably sound, sustainable and balanced growth? Against the backdrop of Brexit it is perhaps unsurprising that there has been only limited debate about the UK Industrial Strategy – Building a Britain fit for the future. This weighty but worthy tome emerged a few months back from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – BEIS to its pals.

The first crucial point to note is that this strategy is intended to apply across the UK. It is intended to be as relevant in Scotland as in England. However, there is the inevitable complication that many of the policy areas debated are devolved rather than reserved, the responsibility of the Scottish Government and its coterie of development and skills agencies rather than BEIS. But for other policy areas of importance, decisions are to be taken at the UK level. Consequently the only way in which Scotland can take full advantage of the strategy, its analysis and policy thinking and the additional resources that may be forthcoming is via close collaboration between BEIS, the relevant Ministers and officials in Edinburgh and our development and skills agencies. This could be a task custom made for the new Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, chaired by Nora Senior.

As a component of this strategy BEIS has set out four ‘Grand Challenges’, namely clean growth, the ageing population, the use of AI and big data and the future of mobility – the electric car and all that. For each of these there is an initial ‘mission’ – respectively much reduced energy use of new buildings; achieving 5 more years per head of healthy living; using big data to better deal with chronic diseases; and putting UK at the forefront of electric vehicle production. There are also many noble words about encouraging a national debate, including a focus on ‘place’ – the spatial aspect of growth – and enhancing innovation/commercialisation and a more international outlook for business.

We should have much to gain from close co-operation on this strategy and the challenges. It will be essential to co-ordinate some key UK and Scottish policies and programmes, and there should be no problem in working with the grain of the proposals set out by BEIS. If we are to enhance growth via improved productivity, more innovation and better use of skills, then setting this ambition within the context of a strategic approach has to make sense – particularly in the context of Brexit.

Jeremy Peat is a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde International Public Policy Institute