Twenty-first century Scotland is one of the most transformed economies in Europe. Its reputation was forged in the 19th and 20th centuries on the heavy manufacturing and engineering industries, but has adapted to the decline in these sectors by switching its focus to modern, knowledge-driven sectors including life sciences, financial services, electronics, energy, education and creative industries.
It is not just Scotland’s economy that has changed beyond all recognition. Its political life was revolutionised in 1998 by the establishment of Scotland’s first parliament in 300 years.
In May 2007, elections to the third term of the Scottish Parliament saw Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond elected first minister of Scotland.
Since its election, the new government has pledged to make Scotland a more investment-ready country by lowering the tax burden and working progressively to make Scotland a much more competitive location for both indigenous and overseas companies. The overall objective being to ensure that Scotland becomes one of the world’s 15 most competitive countries, and the most competitive in the UK.
Scotland’s diverse economy ensures that no one sector dominates. Together, new technology, financial and business services, tourism, education and health account for 70% of Scotland’s gross domestic product.
It is telling that Scotland leads the world in some of those sectors, which are considered the most important to the 21st century global economy. In fact, recent independent research by Evidence, the research impact consultancy, found that Scottish scientists lead the world in key scientific areas.
Financial services account for one in 10 of all Scottish jobs. Since the turn of the century, the financial services sector in Scotland has expanded by 55%, compared with 44% in the UK. It is home to the headquarters of four major banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, ranked fifth largest in the world.
As well as attracting world-leading companies such as Morgan Stanley and BNP Paribas in the past year, Scotland has demonstrated its commitment to financial services by creating the International Financial Services District in Glasgow – a 10-year, £5.6bn project aimed at attracting up to 20,000 jobs in the sector.
The energy sector is one in which Scotland has long-standing expertise. The North Sea is home to major oil and gas fields, with new fields being exploited currently due to Scotland’s vast experience in sub-sea technologies.
Scotland also leads the world in pioneering alternative energy sectors such as wave/tidal stream, offshore wind, hydro and fuel cell technology.
The £15m European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney is a world first in harnessing the power of waves and tidal streams.
Scotland’s life sciences industry is one of the most successful in Europe, showing annual GVA growth rates of between 7% and 8%.
Recent successes have included helping pharma and biotech research company PPD Global expand its presence in Scotland, creating 389 new jobs. Meanwhile, the Edinburgh BioQuarter is a unique £600m location for innovation in healthcare and is set to create thousands of jobs.
Investing in Scotland
Scotland is an important contributor in the UK’s world lead for inward investing projects, and is currently first in the UK for inward R&D projects (Ernst and Young, 2007 European Investment Monitor).
What sets Scotland apart is the close and productive collaboration it encourages between its centres of government, its business innovators, its finance leaders, its institutions of higher learning and the inward investors it welcomes.
Bringing all of these strands together is Scottish Development International, a government-funded organisation that can help international businesses tap into Scotland’s strengths in knowledge, high level skills, technology and innovation.
Global companies need expertise – the best people, the best technologies. Scottish Development International can show how Scotland can match this expertise to overseas business needs.
To find out more, visit the Scottish Development International website at www.sdi.co.uk.