Windows of opportunity

Click to access article as a .pdf
In Scotland, we make it our business to be successful, and a huge part of what helps us to achieve that, is building strong partnerships with our friends and neighbors.

As Scotland’s biggest overseas trading partner, the US is this country’s largest inward investor. However, the historical and cultural links between our countries stretch much further than this, as Scotland continues to welcome US visitors to our shores, not only to do business, but to study, to enjoy our breathtaking landscapes, our exciting cities … or just to play a little golf.

So yes, US visitors represent a hugely important tourism market too, accounting for 15 per cent of all international visitors to Scotland. With five universities in the world’s top 200, US students are also attracted to study here, accounting for the second largest overseas group. Links between Scottish schools, colleges and universities, and their counterparts across the Atlantic, continue to flourish.

It’s also true that what can be so attractive about Scotland in terms of our history, our culture, and our lifestyle, is also rooted in what helps to create such a vibrant business environment. Our history of innovation, discovery and invention, together with access to world-leading engineers and scientists, has encouraged many companies to locate their research and development facilities in Scotland.

This country’s connectivity, not only in terms of transport, infrastructure, and its public and private sectors, but also to global markets, and to supply chains, means companies working in Scotland form part of an inclusive business community. Here there are opportunities for investment, and to access the funding for employment creation, and for research and development, and to training programmes, all of which can help to grow profits while companies are also building excellence as an employer.

However, most importantly, it’s the access to talented people, highly skilled and well-educated, and to that culture of research, innovation, and creativity, together with a broad range of business support, that remains central to Scotland’s attractiveness, and success.

Scotland now attracts more foreign investment than any UK region outside London. Last year proved a landmark, with more than £433 million of planned inward investment, 17 per cent up on overseas projects with 91 more secured, while the jobs created or ring fenced increased by almost 30 per cent to 9659. The top three sectors were technology and engineering, accounting for almost a third of projects, oil and gas making up 16.48 per cent, and financial and business services totalling 15.38 per cent.

Aside from the rest of the UK, it is the US that continues to be the biggest foreign investor, underlined by the generating of 28.6 per cent of those projects last year, and Scotland is continuing to build on its strong business relationship with the US.

However encouraging the figures are, this does not mean Scotland can stand still. Scottish Development International, the international arm of Scotland’s Enterprise agencies, is continuing to work hard to strengthen Scotland’s economic links in overseas markets, and to further enhance our strong international reputation.

With a proven track record of attracting investment, it’s not surprising that SDI’s reputation has been built, not just through attracting that increasing investment, but through supporting businesses every step of the way, when it comes to setting up shop in Scotland. SDI supports businesses before, during and after they locate in Scotland, helping them to identify premises, investment opportunities, funding for employment creation, R&D, and training.

It’s back to that business culture of connectivity in Scotland, with SDI on hand to help make the connections at every level, including national government, local authorities, universities, or local advisors, to ensure the process of investment happens smoothly, so businesses can concentrate on what they do best.

The long-term benefits are reflected in SDI analysis that shows higher wages, employment and labour productivity in the companies the organization has supported to invest in Scotland.

That same culture of connectivity was crucial in helping this country to reach those record levels of investment last year, and Scotland managed to achieve them while also doing something it’s rather renowned for … having a really great time.

Scotland welcomed the world to the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, fantastic sporting occasions that saw public and private sector working side by side, partnerships of funding, and organization of infrastructure, that delivered great success, with a potential legacy for homegrown businesses, and overseas investors too.

Showcase events such as this summer’s Open, at Ayrshire’s Royal Troon Golf Club, also offer overseas visitors the chance to enjoy Scotland’s great outdoors, our bountiful larder, and fascinating heritage.

However, those companies from the US, and around the world, who choose to put down some roots here, will discover that a forward-looking modern Scotland is not constrained by its history, and its proud traditions, but is driven by them.

Scotland isn’t just open for business – we’re ready to do business … and we look forward to helping you to do the same.

Fast facts

❚ Scotland has the highest educational attainment of any part of the UK, with more than 50 per cent of the working population having progressed from school to further education.

❚ More patents are registered in Scotland than in any other country, relative to per head of population.

❚ Scotland has 16 Enterprise Areas where investors in sectors from life sciences and low carbon to renewables and general manufacturing benefit from financial incentives such as discounted business rates, business tax relief and enhanced capital allowances.

 ❚ Scotland has a well-developed transport infrastructure and excellent transport links, with five major international airports serving more than 150 destinations.

❚ It is up to 40 per cent cheaper to set up and run a business facility in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.

❚ Scotland enjoys a highly competitive tax environment that offers low levels of corporation tax and currently at 24 per cent.