International profile high as we welcome the world to Scotland
Scotland has never had a higher profile on the international stage - that’s great news for jobs and investment in our country.
More than 7,400 jobs have been created and safeguarded in the last year thanks to inward investment; 6,161 jobs have been created or safeguarded as a result of Regional Selective Assistance – Scottish Enterprise’s main scheme of financial assistance to industry; and the value of research and development projects has almost doubled to £200 million.
We know that inward investment is already at a 16 year high, and international visits to Scotland increased by 13 per cent last year. We hope to build on that success and more in future years.
One of the key issues facing all nations is how to restore and maintain a sense of social cohesion, of solidarity, of fairness, which enables entrepreneurship to flourish.
After all, it’s easier to mobilise a society behind economic growth if that growth benefits all of society.
When the SNP came into office in 2007, we focused government activity on one purpose: “to create opportunities for all Scotland to flourish by raising the rate of sustainable economic growth”.
It is not about growth alone, it’s about sustainable growth for a purpose: the wellbeing and happiness of individuals and communities in every part of our country.
The Commonwealth Games have reached every corner of Scotland in the past weeks, with the Queen’s Baton held aloft by people in hundreds of our diverse and varied communities.
The Games demonstrate our approach to growth. The very word “Commonwealth” used to mean public benefit or public good – you still hear the phrase “common weal” in Scotland.
The Commonwealth Games won’t just be the biggest cultural and sporting celebration that Scotland has ever seen – they are also a catalyst for improving wellbeing and creating a lasting legacy.
From the 150 community sporting hubs created across the country, to the athletes’ accommodation being transformed into affordable housing, the positive impact of these Games will be felt well beyond their 11 day duration.
Thousands of people will be more active, more skilled, or more engaged with their communities than they would have been if these games had never come to Scotland.
We have made business opportunities accessible to local companies, with 69 per cent of all contracts going to Scottish-based businesses, and we have ensured that the Games create employment and training opportunities for thousands of young people.
Adam Smith, Scotland’s global philosopher and economist, argued for the concept of enlightened self-interest – a self-interest which recognises our responsibilities to, and feelings for, other people.
It recognises that there are wider gains for a community as a whole and for the individual within that community when society is strong and prosperous.
For all nations, including our own, enlightened self-interest is the guiding principle which enables us to combine fairness and prosperity at home; and to engage with the wider world as a good global citizen. It is therefore key to tacking the key national and international challenges that all countries face.
It is that very coupling of competitiveness and solidarity that embodies the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 that I would encourage us all to celebrate.