Analysis: Scotland open for business and very much a big player

SCOTLAND has long enjoyed success in attracting strong inward investment, thanks to the skills of its people, a well-developed business infrastructure, academic excellence and exceptional track record in this field.

At last count, there were 4,700 foreign-owned companies in Scotland - including those headquartered elsewhere in the UK - employing more than 630,000 staff and turning over 145 billion.

These numbers illustrate the value of foreign direct investment (FDI) to the economy, but it's no easy win; we're operating in a globally-competitive investment environment so we must continue to target aggressively these opportunities where we have a strong proposition.

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Inward investment has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the long-term health of the economy, providing business opportunities for Scottish companies through development of supply chains and employment and training opportunities for local people.

Independent evaluation also shows inward investors supported by Scottish Development International (SDI) pay higher wages, employ more people and have higher labour productivity than non-SDI assisted companies.

The good news is Scotland remains an attractive destination for foreign investors; last year Scotland was the most successful part in the UK in terms of the number of jobs attracted through FDI and, in the past ten years, 19 per cent of all new research and development projects in the UK have been won by Scotland.

Over the past 12 months, Scotland has met some challenging targets as an inward investment destination, in what continues to be a difficult economic climate. During this period, SDI has worked with investors to create and safeguard more than 9,300 jobs and international companies - including Amazon, Hewlett Packard and Doosan - have committed more than 600 million to Scotland in planned capital expenditure and salaries.

We cannot underestimate the positive effect this has on the Scottish economy. Where Scotland has remained steadfast is the robustness of our proposition. Who would have thought that, in the middle of one of the toughest economic periods of our time, Scotland's reputation for financial services excellence would be globally recognised?

Yet, in the past year alone, the expansion of Vertex created 368 jobs in Glasgow's thriving international finance services district and Barclays expanded its investment banking and wealth management divisions, creating 600 jobs.

Ceridian, a global leader in HR outsourcing, also unveiled plans to create 200 jobs over the next five years, and John Lewis opened a contact centre in Hamilton, creating more than 450 jobs.Nor could we have anticipated the multiple investments by Amazon to create and safeguard almost 1,900 jobs in Scotland.

We are also working hard to establish Scotland as a global player in the low-carbon economy; an opportunity as significant as the development of the oil and gas industry during the 1970s.

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Scotland's strategy to move towards a low-carbon economy and become a world leader in the development of renewable energies is an attractive FDI proposition to many companies seeking to build their businesses on this basis.

The recent announcement by Spanish energy firm Gamesa of plans to establish a research base for offshore wind technology in Scotland is a great example of how our competitive edge in this field is attracting big-name investors.

Gamesa is also developing a memorandum of understanding with Scottish Enterprise, Dundee City Council and Forth Ports to advance a further potential development in Dundee around manufacturing, logistics and operations and maintenance. If implemented successfully, this plan could represent an investment of €50m (45m) in Scotland and create 300 direct jobs in the country.

During the past year, investments such as these have boosted Scotland's competitiveness as a place to live, work and do business. Working with public and private sector partners, SDI will continue to develop a globally competitive proposition for investors, based on Scotland's key strengths in innovation, skills, infrastructure, people, R&D and education.

Scotland is a resilient nation and our message to foreign investors is clear: not only are we open for business, but we're also very much in it for the long game.

• Anne MacColl is the chief executive of Scottish Development International