Liz McAreavey, CEO Blog: May 2017
I’ve been lucky enough to do some travelling in recent weeks and it’s interesting to compare our culture with others – the warm welcome and hospitality of the East, their work ethic and culture of enterprise, their generosity of spirit and friendship. Maybe the sunshine makes everyone happy – it worked for me, or was it the brief relief from the politics of home. No talk of Brexit, General Elections and Indyref#2. Bliss.
My admiration for the Eastern culture made me reflect on emerging economies and how Scotland is at risk of falling behind as the pace of change and technological advancement continues to accelerate. The pace of change is now the fastest it’s ever been, but it will never be this slow again. We cannot ignore the new era of algorithms, social media and robotics that run our lives, manage our homes and allow us to browse, compare, order and pay for goods and services at the tap of a screen.
How does Scotland compare at this level? Do we have the culture to adapt and compete? We talk about being world class – but what does that mean? What takes a business from emerging, to mature, to world class? And how do we create businesses that are global market leaders?
For Scotland to flourish we need a strong and stable economy across a diverse range of sectors. We need wealth and job creators who reach out to the rest of the world to trade our products and services.
Scotland has real strength in its education system. The innovative research and development in FInTech, robotics and AI regularly lead to spin-out companies from our universities. We are world leaders in the Oil and Gas service sector, in Financial Services and we have abundant natural resources in fish, agriculture, aquaculture and talent. And of course we have whisky – 80% of food and drink exports come from the golden nectar that is Scotch whisky – the best in the world.
So, there’s no shortage of products, ideas and enterprise. But the challenge we are faced with is – how do we harness this and create global businesses that surpass the start-up years and accelerate to scale and market leadership? We need to lead, educate and support entrepreneurship, recycle the knowledge and experience from our successful business leaders. We need high speed digital connectivity and we need to encourage the ambition for international trade whilst ensuring businesses have access to international markets to support them in competing on the world stage. And we need a skilled workforce to help build these businesses – a workforce that is diverse, ambitious and resilient.
The Scottish Government can only deliver its economic strategy if the business community is strong and grows significantly in the coming years. The public sector accounts for over 50% of the workforce and real growth in employment and the tax base can only come from the private sector. If we want to improve public services, we must pay for them.
The Scottish Chamber Network and other business organisations are working hard to ensure we embrace these opportunities and also have the support to compete and fully exploit the advantages we have in abundance. Scotland is open for business and never mind the Silk Road – we have the Tartan Highway!