Reap rewards by nurturing young talent

SURVEY after survey confirms that business confidence and productivity are once again a day-to-day reality for business owners, rather than a long-term dream.

Graduates now regard owning their own ventures as a legitimate career option. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The latest economic figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirm the UK’s GDP is growing at 1.9 per cent, the strongest since 2007.

As a business owner and master of an organisation that has represented Scottish business interests for 300 years, I naturally welcome the rising confidence levels across the country’s various sectors, from manufacturing to finance.

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However, it is important that mistakes of the past are not repeated. Starting up a business in Scotland has traditionally been a complex and costly affair, with many entrepreneurs finding it impossible to survive beyond their first year of trading.

Times are changing. In 2013, there were more than 30,000 business start-ups in Scotland. Glasgow and Edinburgh ranked in the top ten for UK entrepreneurship. University and college graduates now regard owning their own ventures as a legitimate and secure career option.

Much of this cultural shift is down to a change in attitude and an increase in support from government and other business and trade bodies.

Today, more than ever before, a young person in Scotland can aspire to develop and grow their own business, regardless of their background or skills base.

There are many reasons to celebrate, but there must also be caution. In 2012, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor backed up the findings that young people are now embracing entrepreneurship. However, it highlighted that, while Scotland is now catching up with its Nordic neighbours, it continues to lag behind the rest of the UK. There is also evidence to suggest that tens of thousands of Scottish business students take their qualifications and business ideas south of the Border after graduation.

The recent global economic downturn forced us all to look again at how we deliver sustainable economic growth.

The result was far more focus on working collaboratively. This must ripple down to young entrepreneurs.

By supporting bright ideas and ambition, Scotland has the potential to become a global force in entrepreneurship.

• Ian Watson is master of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh