Scots follow Irish lead in chase for expat dollars
NEARLY a century after Andrew Carnegie used much of his vast wealth to help charities in the United States, a new organisation hopes to deliver a reversal of fortune, capitalising on the assets and goodwill of the Scottish-American diaspora.
The Scotland Funds, involving senior figures from corporate Scotland, MSPs and Scots-American organisations, wants to raise money in the US for dispersal to charities, education projects and arts groups in this country.
Three senior figures from the Scottish business community, who have so far remained anonymous, have given substantial financial backing to the venture, and a feasibility study conducted among senior members of the American business community and American-Scots groups has shown there is a bountiful market to be tapped.
Organisers are hoping to use the allure of some the biggest names in Scotland to attract cash from the United States. Donations from rich and powerful players in the American business community are expected to be given a significant boost with the use of names such as Sir Sean Connery, Dougray Scott and JK Rowling.
As one of America’s richest men, Kip Forbes, the vice-president of the eponymous business empire, who also has Scottish ancestry, is likely to be courted by The Scotland Funds.
The Scotland Funds’ founding director, the SNP MSP Jim Mather, said: "The Scotland Funds is our attempt to emulate other countries and activate our Scots abroad, allowing those of Scots descent worldwide and the many millions of people with goodwill and affection for Scotland to play a part in protecting our cultural inheritance and boosting the self-esteem and ambition of individual Scots."
Alan Bain, president of the American-Scottish Foundation in New York, who met Mather to discuss the proposals last year, said he supported the concept of a distinctive Scottish-American alliance for benevolent purposes and will be giving the project his backing.
He said: "Millions of Americans can trace Scottish ancestry but the goodwill that stems from that has never been energised in one organisation with a genuine reach into the heart of American society.
"That is what’s needed and we would like The Scotland Funds to meet with more of our members to make this happen."
The expatriate group is being modelled on The Ireland Funds, an initiative formally established in 1987 among wealthy Irish-Americans, which helps 200 projects a year in Ireland, is active in 14 countries and has raised more than $100m in the US since 1999.
The Royal Irish Academy of Music and the National Gallery, both in Dublin, are just two of the organisations that have benefited.
With support from A-list stars, including Bono, The Ireland Funds’ 28th New York dinner gala at the Waldorf was a 500-guest jamboree, raising more than $2m.
Nearly 10 million people in America claim Scottish heritage, making them the eighth largest ethnic group in the country. The Scotland Funds’ research also shows American-Scots to be one of the wealthiest. This is the bounty it aims to capitalise on.
The cross-party initiative has appointed four parliamentary directors - Mather (SNP), Gordon Jackson QC (Labour), Murdo Fraser (Scottish Conservatives) and Alex Neil (SNP). A Liberal Democrat representative is expected to be added soon. The Scotland Funds will also appoint up to 10 directors from Scottish business, four of whom have already been sounded out by Mather and the group’s operations director, Dick Mungin .
A chairman and an American-based president will be the most senior appointments. In the next year, however, The Scotland Funds aims to secure core funding from Scottish companies who see better representation in America as a lucrative gateway to new commercial markets. Donations from wealthy individuals will also be sought.
In America, Scotland on Sunday has found broad support for the project among key members of the Scottish-American community. Ed Collins, 43, who works for UBS, the global securities and investment firm, has been president of the St Andrew’s Society of New York for two years. His late mother, Elizabeth, left Port Glasgow in 1954, when she was 21.
Collins said: "I like the idea. There is enormous goodwill towards Scots because they were here before many Americans and we cherish our families’ close ties with Scotland, so The Scotland Funds could work."
The New York group, one of dozens of St Andrew’s Societies across America, runs a university postgraduate exchange programme, funded by 800 endowment payers. Collins added: "We in the society want to put something back, and through the endowment we send two Scottish students to an American university for postgraduate study and two Americans to one of the ancient Scottish universities every year."
Educational exchange is only one area that The Scotland Funds would operate in, according to its mission statement, which says it will fund charitable projects addressing "issues of deprivation, education, cultural development and economic regeneration".
Education and culture projects could include the traditional music school at Plockton. The work of the feisean movement in the Highlands and Islands in assisting the renaissance of traditional music may also be considered worthy of support. The Scotland Funds also hopes to help more mainstream charities, such as those working with the elderly and socially disadvantaged.
Although members of the St Andrew’s Society of New York meet every month, Collins, like Bain, believes there is a lack of cohesion between Scottish-American groups. "There is a basic lack of organisation between the various Scottish-American societies and for The Scotland Funds to work we would have to create more excitement about Scottish connections," Collins said.
The notable exception is Tartan Day, which is organised in concert by the St Andrew’s Society, the Caledonian Club, the American-Scottish Foundation and the Clan Campbell Society. Dennis Hagerty, a member of the St Andrew’s Society in charge of the parade, described The Scotland Funds as "a great idea".
He said: "Scots built America. Alexander Hamilton, a Scot, is the face on our $10 note. John Paul Jones, another Scot, founded the US Navy, and John Witherspoon was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. The links are there."
Myriad groups throughout Canada and the United States have taken the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, in 1320, as the national date to celebrate their Scottish roots.
In 1991, in response to action initiated by the Clans & Scottish Societies of Canada, the Ontario Legislature passed a resolution proclaiming April 6 as Tartan Day. The United States followed suit in 1998, with Senate resolution 155.
That resolution now culminates in the annual event most recognisable by the annual procession of pipes and drums on New York City’s Sixth Avenue. Tartan Day is the showcase of a week of events devoted to the Scottish-American connection.
Appointing full-time representatives in America is among The Scotland Funds’ next steps, according to Mungin, alongside visits to six American cities during Tartan Week 2005.
Mungin, who has visited America three times since November 2003 to enlist support, added: "The people we have met had a strong emotional attachment with Scotland and the response was extremely warm."
If successful collaboration can be achieved, money could definitely follow, according to Collins who said a recent benefit in New York organised by Marie Curie raised $800,000. "By getting Sean Connery on the ticket they managed to create awareness," he said.
"Profile is a big thing. People who have money to give away want to get something out of it."
THE CARNEGIE CONNECTION
THE Scottish influence on America stretches back to the 17th century. Religious persecution in Scotland prompted many to cross the Atlantic and early settlements were established in East Jersey in 1683 - now eastern and northern Jersey - and in South Carolina in 1698. But both these early colonies failed.
After the 1707 Act of Union, trade between Scotland and America dramatically increased. Merchants began to take advantage of the huge opportunities available in the New World, especially in the tobacco trade. Emigration by this group was mostly to Virginia where the tobacco trade was strongest. The Scottish emigrants of the 18th Century were well-educated due to the Scottish Reformation, which had stressed the need for schooling, and gave every Scot the ability to read the bible. Many cities and towns were nostalgically named after the places the Scottish immigrants had left behind. There are eight Aberdeens, eight Edinburghs, seven Glasgows and eight places simply known as Scotland in the United States today.
While half of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1776, were of Scottish descent, two were actually born in Scotland. John Witherspoon, who represented the state of New Jersey, was born in the parish of Gifford in East Lothian. A successful scholar, he became a fully ordained minister at 20. He came to America in 1768 to take up the role of the first President of New Jersey College, which was later to become Princeton, one of America's finest Universities. James Wilson, Pennsylvania, was born near St Andrews, in 1742. He sailed for the New World in 1765 and became a tutor with the College of Philadelphia.
However the most famous Scottish-American is Andrew Carnegie. His father Will, a Dunfermline weaver, took wife Margaret and three-year-old Andrew to the United States in 1848 when the introduction of steam powered looms left him unemployed.
After Andrew started working as a telegraph operator, he became the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad before founding a steel empire. He sold it to JP Morgan for $480m in 1901, making him the world’s richest man.
He spent the last 18 years of his life donating his wealth to charitable organisations. By the time he died in August, 1919, he had given away $350m. A further $125m was placed with the Carnegie Corporation to carry on his good works.
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