Rice leads the way as Scots business honours top movers and shakers

THE outstanding achievements of the leading lights of Scottish business have been celebrated at a top national awards ceremony.

Susan Rice, chief executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland, scooped the inaugural LogicaCMG Leadership Award, while the Wood Group was named the Hymans Robertson Business of the Year at the National Business Awards for Scotland last night.

More than 500 business leaders and VIPs gathered at Glasgow's Hilton Hotel to honour innovation and success in enterprise north of the Border.

The awards dinner, held in partnership with The Scotsman and sponsored by communications giant Orange, is now in its fifth year in the current format.

Phil Forrest, head of the judging panel and chairman of market research company the Osprey Partnership, said: "The standard has been exceptionally high this year - the bar was very much raised. If you take out the awards for SMEs, around 40 per cent of the finalists are blue-chip companies, which is very impressive."

He added: "What impressed me most was the amount of confidence businesses in Scotland have. There is a very strong feeling that the business they are doing, they are doing well and that they expect that to continue."

Rice, who made history when she became the first woman to head a UK clearing bank in 2000, was praised by the judging panel for her inspiration and leadership skills, beating off competition from high-profile business leaders from around Scotland including Ian Dickinson, assistant chief constable of Lothian & Borders Police, and Mary Dickson, managing director of FirstScot Rail.

Opening the event, the Cabinet secretary for finance and sustainable growth, John Swinney, said: "The Scottish Government's aim is to increase sustainable economic growth and we are working hard to create the best conditions for businesses to flourish. Establishing a Council of Economic Advisers, cutting or reducing business rates for businesses and simplifying regulation are just some of the ways in which we can help business and individuals - like those honoured here tonight."

Judith Halkerston, director of LogicaCMG Scotland and a judge for the Leadership Award, who presented Rice with her trophy, said: "Susan hires people to work around her who really challenge her and bring something different to the table, which I was very impressed with."

Aberdeen-headquartered Wood won the top title after record results in 2006 - growing revenues by 26 per cent to $3.4 billion (1.66bn) and boosting staff numbers by a quarter to 20,000.

OTHER WINNERS LAST NIGHT INCLUDED:

• Customer Focus - Dell Corporation

• Growth Strategy of the Year - Petrotechnics

• Entrepreneur - Steve Leach, Bigmouthmedia

• Marketing Strategy - Glasgow Science Centre

• Tourism - Crieff Hydro

• Business Innovation - Sykes Global Services EMEA

• Best Use of Technology - Scottish Friendly Assurance

• Corporate Social Responsibility - Production Services Network

• Employer of the Year - Kwik-Fit Financial Services