My Column

People need a place in the digital future

  • Date: Monday 18th November 2019
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Technology is evolving at a rapid pace. In fact, the current wave of digital change is so great that it is being described by some as the fourth industrial revolution.

The public demand for advanced, high-speed gadgets and instant gratification at the click of a button is greater than ever and technology has become so sophisticated that artificial intelligence is creeping its way into our everyday lives.

When I read in the news last week that around 500 finance jobs could be lost in Edinburgh over the next three years due to automation, I was saddened but not totally surprised.

Phoenix Group, who last year took over much of investment company Standard Life, announced a tie-up last week with a software, technology and outsourcing company. The deal will mean that many workers will transfer to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

The partnership between Phoenix and TCS will allow the business to operate on one digital platform which will streamline services and develop software available to clients.

However, the move will also contribute to stripping back human intervention. It’s just an example of digitalisation taking over work traditionally done by real people.

It’s very sad news for workers whose jobs are under threat. The move will also be a major blow to the Edinburgh economy as Phoenix is among the city's biggest private sector employers.

It’s times like this when digital advancements start to leave a sour taste in your mouth. How many more human jobs will be replaced by a computer? Self-service supermarket checkouts and digital banking are just two examples of major changes which have played their part in the loss of jobs.

And sadly, automation is only looking to become more and more common.

Earlier this year, think tank Common Weal reported that global automation threatens the loss of a third of jobs by 2030, which is damning news for our society.

Don’t get me wrong, technology is a wonderful thing and recent advancements have brought long-lasting, life changing benefits to our world.


But when it risks putting many people out of work, a line must be drawn.


Personally, I fear that an increase in automation risks widening the gap between rich and poor in Scotland. It’s the workers on the lowest wages who will feel the worst effects and something must be done to combat this.


An overhaul of Scottish economic and social policy will be needed if global automation is to continue to grow. We need an effective strategy in place, an investment-led growth model which will ensure Scotland is equipped to deal with this change.


The Scottish economy must be reorganised and brought into line with modern-day changes which will inevitably affect us all. It must be inclusive and sustainable in order to be able to deal with increasing levels of automation and to mitigate job losses.


We must safeguard the future of our country and its workers and to do this there needs to be a strategic plan in place. There is a pressing need for a strategy which addresses technology, the economy and social dimensions. There is no sense in burying our heads in the sand - lest we give up and hand our jobs over to robots.

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With only 31 days until Christmas it’s no surprise that the big retailers are all releasing their festive adverts in the hope of winning the annual popularity contest.


The competition seems to get more heated every year and 2019 is no different.


For many, the festive countdown doesn’t really begin until the John Lewis advert arrives and last week it arrived with a bang thanks to Excitable Edgar.


Naturally it triggered debates all across the country in both homes and offices over whether it’s a hit or not and if its managed to top their massively well-received Elton John effort last year.


There’s also the hot topic over whether it’s got the edge over Walkers’ new Christmas ad featuring Mariah Carey.


The more important question for me that these mini-epics pose though, is just how much retailers really benefit from massive, all-singing, all-dancing adverts.


The crisps giant reportedly spent around £9million to feature Mariah, but is their output really greater than their input?

With the current state of our high street it makes me wonder whether it’s worth the investment.


You could argue that companies, not just in Scotland but across the UK, rely on sales at this time of the year to keep them going through the following year.


These adverts can be the perfect way to showcase their festive offerings and increase footfall and ultimately sales, not to mention the benefit from all of the collateral that comes with the Christmas ads these days – think Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot or the aforementioned Edgar from John Lewis and Waitrose.


Parents will all know the struggle of rushing to buy the next big character before stocks run low. Bad news for families but great news for the companies as sales soar and interaction across social media takes over.

Time will tell on how well this year’s television adverts will work, but one thing that’s for sure is that we will be inundated with these until the Big Day.


Without sounding like Scrooge, I might have enjoyed my first viewing of Excitable Edgar, but I just know by the 25th of December that I might just be over it...

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Travelodge have provided the humour for me this week with the announcement of the weirdest requests they have had from Scottish customers over the last year.


The hospitality company stress they are always keen to go above and beyond, but some of the demands are truly unbelievable and in fact, often downright impossible.


One of my favourites is the customer who requested a bath filled with Irn-Bru for a birthday surprise for her husband, while another asked if it the hotel could “book a sit down on Arthur’s Seat.”


Saying that, the chain, which has 45 hotels across Scotland, do seem to be keeping the majority of people happy as sales earlier this year showed a rise from 2018 – despite all the weird and wacky requests they get.

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Hearing of job losses at any point in the year is disappointing but it’s especially hard as the festive season begins.


It’s a time where financial concerns can be at their peak, as many worry if they will be able to afford those must-have gifts and serve the traditional Christmas feast.


Unfortunately the Federation of Small Businesses are now saying that employment figures are “painting a worrying picture.”

For smaller companies, the biggest costs are employment figures which means when belts need tightening, redundancies are often unavoidable.


It’s always upsetting to see as, like I’ve said before, our high streets are not looking healthy and many small retailers are struggling to make it through the winter.


What SME’s need is more assistance and help from the government – there needs to be a solution and it needs to be found quickly.


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