Scotland seen as ‘friendly’ business brand but must think more globally, study finds

Scotland is seen as friendly and trustworthy in business but needs to become less inward-looking, strengthen its global mindset and export more, according to what is billed as the largest survey of its kind.

From left: Roger Mullin (Momentous), Russell Dalgleish (SBN), Michelle Thomson (Momentous), Kendra Byers and Sandy Donaldson (both of SBN). Picture: contributed.
From left: Roger Mullin (Momentous), Russell Dalgleish (SBN), Michelle Thomson (Momentous), Kendra Byers and Sandy Donaldson (both of SBN). Picture: contributed.

The research report – titled Perceptions of the Scottish Business Diaspora – was undertaken by Momentous Change on behalf of the Scottish Business Network (SBN), with more than 1,000 respondents from 74 countries.

The Scottish business diaspora was defined as those who are born in Scotland or have worked, studied or have family connections with the nation. The research study sample included business-owners, founders, directors and senior executives from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to large corporates.

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When asked about “positive descriptors” in relation to how Scotland is perceived, 72 per cent of respondents described Scotland as friendly, 45 per cent called it resilient, 44 per cent classified Scotland as entrepreneurial, 35 per cent deemed it progressive – but only 29 per cent of the sample described Scotland as outward-looking.

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The study also asked how Scotland could improve its international standing regarding other trading nations, finding a high level of agreement around the need to build stronger networks and extend the supply of information flowing between the Scottish Government, its enterprise agencies, other trade-related bodies like Linlithgow-based SBN and Scottish companies looking to step up their export activities and achieve internationalisation.

Unified

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Also noted by the report was that there could be a case for also taking a more regional approach with international groupings of countries (such as the EU and the Southern African Development Community), and many respondents called for the creation of a more enabling export environment for Scotland as a trading nation – seeking a more unified and joined-up international network for the Scottish business diaspora.

The report also revealed feedback from respondents suggesting that Scottish businesses should not restrict their export focus to only those priority countries outlined in the Scottish Government’s 2019 report.

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Michelle Thomson, co-author of the report with Roger Mullin from Momentous Change, said: “As described by one of our respondents, a £100,000 contract with a non-priority target country like New Zealand is just as valuable as a designated priority country like China.”

The report also saw widespread demand for more trade missions from Scotland, with SMEs and larger corporates revealing a desire for Scotland to step up activity in this area.

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SBN chair Russell Dalgleish said: “The findings of this research have already influenced our strategy to support the development of SBN Chapters in major cities across the globe, with New York launching at the beginning of April.”

Scottish trade minister Ivan McKee said: “I welcome this report from Momentous Change… Despite the challenges we face as a result of Brexit, the Scottish Government will strengthen our international ties and continue to work to support exporting businesses and develop international links.”