Mediator tackles independence referendum head–on

With the big independence referendum vote getting ever closer there is a star-studded line-up for Collaborative Scotland’s Day of Dialogue on Thursday.

Jane Wood is one of the business figures involved in Collaborative Scotlands Day of Dialogue. Picture: Jane Barlow
Jane Wood is one of the business figures involved in Collaborative Scotlands Day of Dialogue. Picture: Jane Barlow

The drop-in, drop-out bash runs for the full day, from 7:45am to midnight, at the Grassmarket Community Centre in Edinburgh and has been organised by John Sturrock, the mediator and chief executive of Core Solutions.

Business folk involved include Jane Wood, chief executive of Scottish Business in the Community; Josh Littlejohn, the social entrepreneur and founder of the Social Bite sandwich chain; and property guru Dan Macdonald, boss of Macdonald Estates and founder of business organisation N56. A string of political figures will also make an appearance at events ranging from a “breakfast conversation” to a “midnight vigil”.

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Sturrock tells the Business Desk: “This is not about Yes or No, but how we live and work together, irrespective of the outcome on 18 September.

“For some people, the campaign has sometimes seemed to be more about fixed positions and point-scoring than discussing the kind of Scotland we all want to live in. We think there is a different way of doing it.”

The mediator may have his work cut out keeping the warring factions apart…

No frying that pizza, now

Pizza Hut UK’s head of operations, Mike Spencer, is busy overseeing a £1.7 million investment into the chain’s Scottish restaurants as it seeks to grab a larger slice of the “casual dining” market.

As well as giving its sites an American diner-themed revamp, the group is introducing deep fat fryers into its kitchens to offer customers the likes of onion rings and French fries to accompany their Hawaiians or Pepperoni Feasts.

But Spencer tells the Business Desk that the firm is unlikely to embrace one particular staple of the Scottish diet: the deep-fried pizza.

“Our pan pizza is famous for its taste and quality, and that’s certainly a favourite of the Scottish market,” he says. “We won’t deep fry that pizza.”

Mind your language…

Setting up a business base in an emerging economy can get quite “Wild West-y”, according to Lingo24 boss Christian Arno.

The entrepreneur, who set up his high-tech translation business in 2001, delighted members and guests of the Marketing Society with his anecdotes.

As speaker at the latest Albion Dinner, held at The Bonham in Edinburgh, he regaled the diners with tales of building the firm’s operations in Panama and Romania.

“We did actually manage to recruit a convicted murderer at one point,” he recalled, adding: “It wasn’t in the job description – or on his application – but we found out after he left.

“I was also threatened by a gypsy overlord in Romania. He was going to take my life unless I sold a property at a price he wanted.”

Arno carried on his tale without revealing anything further, before VisitScotland’s Helen Campbell finally asked the question on everyone’s lips. Apparently, the gypsy king got his deal.

Digital discoveries

Scotland’s first “digital business accelerator” launches on Wednesday, with entrepreneur Danny Meaney and some of his backers making presentations at the Up event at Creative Exchange.

Meaney, who developed the concept based on his experience of running a chain of incubators and knowledge of the TechCity development in London, says the firm will plug start-ups and spin-outs into the world’s digital revolution.

The Edinburgh accelerator is launching at the same time as a sister venture in Manchester, after Meaney identified the cities as presenting prime opportunities for early-stage investors looking to escape London prices.