My Column

Raise my half glass to a better future

  • Date: Monday 10th June 2019
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Is your glass half full or half empty? Sometimes the way you look at things can entirely dictate your fortunes.

 

It’s all about perspective – and one view can be just as valid as another. Isn’t it curious how two people can be presented with the same facts and draw two very different conclusions?

 

Well, our business community has been somewhat split along similar lines following the results of an annual survey from business consultancy EY being published.

 

Their stats show that Scotland has retained its ranking as the second most attractive area of the UK for inward investment. So far, so good. However, at the same time, it was revealed that investment was down by nearly a fifth in Scotland in 2018.

 

So, with our bonnie Scotland still packing quite the punch on the world stage, there was definitely some cause for celebration – but of course others signalled concern at the drop in the likes of research and development and manufacturing projects.

 

I think it’s fair to say both outlooks can be true at once, and we should take both comfort and caution in equal measure from these figures.

 

We are, of course, living in unprecedented times, with Brexit still looming large and, indeed, some 15 per cent of foreign firms surveyed by EY said their UK investment plans were on hold as a direct consequence of this.

 

As to London, it was naturally the front-runner in the field, but interestingly didn’t see the decline that we did here in Scotland. In total, 94 projects came Scotland’s way last year, many of these on a smaller scale than the likes of the projects drawn to the Midlands of England.

 

So, despite coming second only to the big smoke, there is still work to be done to draw bigger and better projects. And while our nation is on the ascendancy too in terms of perception among investors, there is still room for much more growth.

 

I like to think of myself as a glass half full kind of person but, at the same time, I agree with the sentiments of Scottish Development International managing director Paul Lewis, who, in responding to the stats, said there is need for further “collaboration” to build upon our successes.

 

Rather than rest on our laurels and the comfort of a podium finish, we need to work together to drive more investment north of the border.

 

Something that might draw such investment in the coming weeks and months is the International Business Gateway site that went up for sale next to Edinburgh Airport last week - billed the best buy in Scotland.

 

This 250 acre site is bound to be causing a stir among investors across the globe. 

 

With all this focus on inward investment, you could be forgiven for missing the raft of encouraging export stats that also landed last week.

 

Fresh figures from the Food and Drink Federation showed total exports across the UK were up more than 10 per cent in the first quarter of the year from 2018, with Scottish exports of whisky and salmon helping to bolster the numbers.

 

UK whisky sales were up almost 20 per cent in the first quarter, compared to last year, with the vast majority coming from Scotland. And salmon was a real star of the show, with exports up more than 40 per cent overall.

 

We’re really pulling our weight here. However, this recent surge in demand is thought to be, in part, down to a trend towards stockpiling ahead of the original Brexit deadline back in March.

 

Whatever the reason, it might be prudent to again draw comfort and caution from these figures as we hurtle further into the Brexit unknown.

 

I, for one, have my glass half full.

 

 

SIDE

I don’t think a single week goes by at the moment without a large company making their ultimate decision regarding where to set up shop in a post-Brexit world.

 

Whether it’s the potential Ford factory closures announced earlier this week in Bridgend or EasyJet hopping on a plane to Vienna, it’s interesting to hear a company putting their foot down on retaining a solely UK focus.

For Livingston-based retailer Schuh, the EU shoe is on the other foot after the company announced it would be closing its three stores in Germany due to difficult trading conditions brought on by the big B word.

 

Taking its first steps inot mainland Europe in Oberhausen in 2015, the fashion chain has since cited a ‘considerably’ changing market as the key reason behind its withdrawal.

 

With 75 redundancies across the three stores, managing director Colin Temple praised the company’s few years across the channel and thanked staff - or as he says ‘the Schuh family’ - for their valuable input and support during this European experiment.

While the gamble didn’t pay off in this instance, it’s an example which I hope more companies can at least consider following in the footsteps of. 

 

It’s commendable to see a company stick to their roots and postpone global expansion while so many others appear to be giving the UK the boot.

 

 

LAUGH

Nobody throws a good, old fashioned wedding like us Scots. The food, the dancing and the banter – with a bit of ‘500 Miles’ thrown in – all tends to culminate in a good time for all.

 

That’s why I chuckled to hear that people are still flocking to the traditional charms of Gretna Green to get hitched. The area sees 12 per cent of all ceremonies across the country and 80 per cent of the weddings in Dumfries & Galloway. 

The Green has always had a ‘ring-ing’ endorsement from couples looking to be joined in holy matrimony.

 

Indeed, 2018 alone saw over 3,000 weddings take place, boosting the region’s tourism economy to an estimated £37m. In this uncertain time, it’s good to see Gretna continuing to do what it does best. 



WEEP

 

In our nation of remorseless junk lovers, everyone knows a hoarder of trinkets and tat who doesn’t give a second thought to the value of anything.

 

But where there’s muck, there’s brass as a Scottish family discovered last week. They found that an old chess piece, originally bought 50 years ago for £5 and kept in a drawer since, was actually worth £1 million.

The medieval games piece is believed to be part of the Lewis Chessmen sets which date back to the early 1800s.

 

So the moral of the story is, if you have an old chess pieces that might look a tad ancient, get down to your local ‘pawn’ shop right away and get it checked, mate.

 

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