Business comment: Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chair of Scottish Enterprise, on the impact of Covid-19

There’s an old adage that crises bring out the best in us. The world has not experienced a more brutal, non-conflict crisis as has been witnessed over the past year.

Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chair of Scottish Enterprise.

As a direct impact of Covid-19, lives have been lost, economies have been decimated and the norms we previously associated with everyday life may well be a thing of the past.

But through adversity comes strength. During the pandemic, Scotland’s egalitarian spirit and ability to pull together for the common good has been on full display.

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And while the real heroes of 2020 have been our dedicated NHS staff and other key workers, a collaborative effort has also been evident in the world of business, an environment I personally know very well.

A network of successful businessmen and women, all with Scotland either in their blood or in their heart, have come together to support our country through these most challenging of times. This diaspora group is collectively known as our GlobalScot network.

GlobalScots want to help Scottish companies realise their global potential. They want to give something back, assisting others along the way.

Throughout my career, I’ve learned the importance of having networks. Building relationships with others has provided me with opportunities I may otherwise have not been fortunate enough to be offered.

Those peer-to-peer, inherently ‘human’ interactions can be overlooked in business on occasions. But in today’s modern (socially distant) world, they are more important than ever before.

And the value of such relationships, forged through the GlobalScot network, has been clear for all to see as Scotland sought to protect its people from Covid-19.

As the full impact of the pandemic became known, Trade Minister Ivan McKee issued a call-to-arms to the GlobalScot network to help secure and deliver critical supplies to NHS Scotland and other frontline services.

The response was exceptional, with GlobalScots both supporting the supply of PPE directly and opening up their networks to make connections and open doors on our behalf.

During the pandemic, the GlobalScot network has been maximised to tap into the incredible worldwide expertise at our disposal, providing pivotal guidance and advice on how Scotland should best respond to Covid-19.

Many GlobalScots have also offered their expertise to companies in Scotland via a series of webinars and podcasts, including Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever and Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner of McKinsey, discussing how businesses will rebuild from the pandemic and Anne Richards, CEO of Fidelity International, talking about the investment landscape.

So, as Scotland emerges carefully from the shadow of Covid-19 and attention focuses on the country’s economic recovery, the GlobalScot network will have an essential role to play.

We need a powerful network of advocates for Scotland, who will strengthen our links with the global economy and explain why our country remains such an extraordinary proposition.

Scotland does not need to be sold; our story needs to be told. And that’s exactly what our GlobalScots will do.

When I was first appointed Chair of Scottish Enterprise last year, I underlined the importance of GlobalScot and how everything should be done to harness the power of this international network. This would build upon work already underway as part of the Scottish Government’s A Trading Nation strategy published last year.

Over the past year, great progress has been made to make GlobalScot more accessible, utilising technology to encourage collaboration and sharing amongst members.

A new digital community engagement platform has been created, providing those with an affinity for Scotland the ability to connect and support one another online for our country’s benefit, regardless of their location in the world.

The refreshed, digital GlobalScot network will also be crucial to supporting the Scottish Government achieve its international trade and investment aspirations.

The Scottish Government will publish a new Inward Investment Plan shortly, which will take a targeted approach to driving the creation of highly skilled jobs in key sectors for Scotland’s future economy.

According to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, this plan will set out Scotland’s values and principles for our future trading relationships that will have wellbeing, net zero and inclusivity at their core.

GlobalScots will help deliver this vision to key sectors and markets and will be fully aligned with the wider Brand Scotland ambitions to harness our national story to deliver international growth.

We know that global trade and investment has a tangible impact on a country’s productivity levels and this remains the ultimate prize: seeing overseas partners, the international GlobalScot network and indigenous companies working together to innovate, share ideas, share talent, share cultures and grow together for everyone's benefit.

And it will be that spirit of collaboration that recovers Scotland’s economy and provides tangible economic, social and cultural benefits to all our country’s communities.

- Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chair of Scottish Enterprise

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