Over the centuries, Scotland’s entrepreneurial community has made an indelible impression globally in sectors such as business, culture, science, sport, and so on, with the likes of Thomas Glover, Alexander Graham Bell, John Dunlop through to Sir Ian Wood, Jim McColl, Denis Law and beyond.
All of this and more has been achieved within a ‘can-do’ environment that positively encouraged forward thinking, risk-taking and innovation. Their legacies are there for all to see across the world and their impact are evident in our everyday lives.
A common denominator across our innovators is an underlying drive, determination and energy, and I believe a fundamental ingredient within this is that there’s an inherent desire with the DNA of many Scottish people to make a difference, to ‘add value’.
This has clearly been an indisputable feature of the Scottish trait over the years.
It’s fundamental to the sustainability of Scotland plc that the nation sustains a ‘can do’ environment which recognises and supports necessary change going forward.
Whereas we need a balanced mix of discipline, regulation, innovation and patience, we also need to understand and accept that we cannot over-rely on past achievements.
There’s a burning need to keep pushing the frontiers of industry, education, technology and sport in pursuit of excellence and to sustain Scotland’s position globally as a visionary nation.
We won’t achieve this objective by doing ‘more of the same’, by stemming growth via over-regulation, over-caution, being less risk-averse, and keeping our ambitions and successes under wraps.
At times, we do not hail Scotland adequately in the global marketplace, and this has to change – not least across the North East, which has been sheltered by the North Sea oil and gas industry from the realities of economic hardship which other areas have had to endure.
The downturn in activity levels due to lower oil prices has had a pronounced effect on the local economy across Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire, with many people either out of work, or who have had their salaries reduced. Many others remain in denial that, unless we put a succession plan in place now for life-after-oilfield, we will not sustain the same quality of life and high levels of employment which many have enjoyed over the past five decades.
Some of this is down to denial, some to ignorance and some to selfishness by people who have become complacent that their jobs will always be secure, their quality of life will always be the same and that innovation, growth and the need to overcome economic setbacks are someone else’s problem.
We need strong and visible leadership to galvanise Scotland. But unless we provide an environment for growth and prosperity there is a real prospect that the successes of the past will slow down to a trickle delivered by only the most resolute and focussed of entrepreneurs.
George Yule is vice chairman of Aberdeen Football Club