Scottish firms can count on global support network

IN THE industry, they are calling it a “black gold rush”. The discovery of billions of barrels of oil under the seabed off the north-east coast of Brazil has sent a seismic tremor through the UK’s energy industry.

Picture: AFP/Getty

Over the past four decades, British companies have become world leaders in subsea engineering and offshore operations. Their expertise is now sought after around the world. It is why I am in Rio this week accompanied by dozens of small and medium oil and gas firms from Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. Our aim is to win business with Brazil’s national oil and gas company, Petrobras.

This should give Scotland’s companies and their employees pause for thought. In less than six months, they will be asked to decide what level of support they want for their future exports.

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The Scottish firms lining up to make their sales pitches in Rio know that they have the combined weight of the British and Scottish governments behind them. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and Scottish Development International (SDI) have worked together on this event.

Scottish businesses currently benefit not just from SDI’s 26 international offices, but also from UKTI’s extensive network of 169 offices and professional advisers in over 100 countries, as well as the British Foreign Office’s 267 overseas posts.

Last year, UKTI worked with nearly 2,000 Scottish companies. It helped to land three-quarters of the inward investment that generated 13,500 jobs in Scotland.

This is something Alex Salmond hasn’t a prayer of matching. His independence project would see Scottish firms and the people who work for them cut off from the help that their rivals receive. It would diminish the global reach that Scottish firms derive from the UK being the world’s sixth largest economy.

Only yesterday, the Joint Ministerial Committee in London, chaired by Nick Clegg and attended by Nicola Sturgeon, discussed the trade and investment opportunities the whole of the UK enjoys from events like the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.

We work better together to support growth and jobs, safeguarding people’s prospects for the future. Long may this continue.

• Ken Clarke MP is a minister without portfolio in the UK government