Jim Duffy: Sturgeon on fire as she hails the new Scottish Enlightenment

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered a rousing speech to the Startup Summit at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered a rousing speech to the Startup Summit at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
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We live in a world of hype! Celebrity, Towie-star Gemma Collins, baking programmes and salacious headlines that appeal to our more raunchy side.

But, real news that matters should be highlighted and given headroom. Real news that makes a difference to our lives as taxpayers and stakeholders in society. Real news that is meaningful and has long-lasting consequences for many people in our society.

As far as I’m concerned, the real scoop this week, the real news event, took place in Scotland and it involved our First Minister no less.

For Nicola Sturgeon was the talk of the steamie at the Startup Summit in Edinburgh.

There is nothing more zesty and uplifting than attending an entrepreneurs conference. What’s even more exciting is attending one in Scotland that really does hit the sweet spot.

This year’s summit did not disappoint. There were more than 500 people in the room and top entrepreneurs on stage, including that funny-looking guy from Brewdog who always wears a cloth cap.

Mind you as one of the most successful entrepreneurs Scotland has produced this decade, James Watt can wear what he wants.

The press pack was in full cry. I was standing with my coffee in the packed auditorium when Sturgeon started doing the rounds of the stalls. And I was almost knocked off my feet by the camera crews as they jockeyed for position. I even had to put my coffee on a table as the scrum enfolded.

But just what would Nicola announce as she opened this year’s summit?

I entered the big hall at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh and, as I was on stage myself at some point, I was pointed in the direction of the reserved seats at the front.

I sat there with my old friend and colleague Emma Jones OBE from Enterprise Nation, who has championed start-ups and entrepreneurs for a decade and had come up from London to attend. Bruce Walker opened the proceedings and then introduced “Sturgo”.

Now I’ve seen our First Minister speak on many occasions. But here she was on fire and I just loved her enthusiasm on the subject matter: Scotland’s new enlightenment.

And it is really happening right now. Scotland has one of the most active business start-up ecosystems in the world.

And I can say that with some authority as I have been part of it for six years. I have watched it grow and struggle and fight with itself and morph and pivot and succeed. It is now maturing into what it should be – an ecosystem that has no guru or one organisation taking all the kudos.

It is not exclusive and really feels inclusive – I like that. The First Minister is right behind it. For her speech, there was no reading from a script. She knew exactly what her message was and she nailed it.

Scotland is being bold. It is putting itself on the map and now inviting both Scots and anyone else on the planet to come and innovate here.

Bring your transformative idea that could change how we Iive and exist both in Scotland and the world, and Scotland will help you to develop and grow it.

Imagine this if you will: the best brains from Argentina or China or Germany all coming here and being supported as they develop game-changing ideas that will have social, economic or environmental outputs.

So what does support mean? Well, there’s a pot of £4 million to begin with that will support up to 40 of these people. Not a bad start.

It’s a meaningful sum of money that those involved can do something effective with. Unlike the government’s City Deals scheme which bamboozles me. I wonder if in ten year’s time, they will be seen as the new PFIs.

If you have been paying attention as you’ve been read this piece, then it should have occured to you that you can get a slice of this pie and participate if you really want to.

How many of you have fabulous ideas that you have sketched out on the back of an envelope or, indeed, talked about round the dinner table. Now is the time to put these down in a sensible, structured manner and submit them for consideration.

Who knows, your idea could be one that changes a nation. From rethinking childcare to disrupting agriculture, from re-designing how we care for the elderly to inventing a new, socially minded bookmakers. Everything is up for grabs.

This is one policy announcement that we cannot simply gloss over. For me this is the headline of the week. A headline that can can define a new regenerative “innovation pipeline” in and from Scotland. I’m genuinely excited for all the potential it has. My old mate Emma Jones was suitably impressed and commented to me afterwards on how bold and edgy Scotland feels in its attempt to create an entrepreneurial nation.

We have truly gotten our act together and the Startup Summit was a great place to communicate this to the right people.

Believe it or not we really are living in a new enlightenment where government, top entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial organisations and young people like Bruce Walker and Adam Purvis, the summit organisers, are kettling all the right players with a real focus on our future productivity and growth.

Scotland was put on the map this week and when others are stopping people from crossing borders, we are definitely stating we are open for business.

So get on board our rocket ship, Scotland is going places.