From well-known exports such as golf and whisky, Scotland has re-invented itself as a world-leader in innovation and technology
By Barry McDonald
As one of Europe’s most dynamic and creative nations, Scotland is a country as rich and diverse as its dramatic landscape. From the home of golf and Scotch whisky, to a pioneer in life sciences and financial technology, Scotland is a country rich in tradition, culture and innovation and has produced a raft of innovators and success stories, from 19th Century industrialist Andrew Carnegie to World Tennis number one Andy Murray.
Home to the 43rd largest economy in the world, Scotland boasts a GDP of approximately $187bn. Much of that is down to the country’s key industries, which include financial services, renewable energy, life sciences, education, gas and oil, food and drink and tourism.
Scotland can lay claim to a 300-year history in financial services and today boasts Europe’s 4th largest asset management centers, employing 95,000 people directly and 70,000 indirectly. Companies headquartered in Scotland include Standard Life, Aberdeen Asset Management, Aegon and RBS.
In the renewable energy sector Scotland accounts for 60% of the UK’s onshore wind capacity and already generates almost 50% of its gross electricity consumption from renewables, emphasizing its industry leader status.
In the field of life sciences Scotland is the base of one of Europe’s largest life science clusters, home to more than 650 organizations employing over 35,000 staff. Scotland is widely recognized as a leader in research, development and manufacturing.
Always a leader in tertiary education, Scotland’s world class academic sector makes a significant continuation to the country’s economy. The country’s 19 universities create an annual economic impact of around $9bn. In fact, Scotland scores 5.8 out of 7 for university-industry collaboration in research and development, a score above countries that include the US, Germany and Japan.
Scotland is also estimated to have the largest oil reserves in the EU and the recent discovery of the largest undeveloped discovery on the UK Continental Shelf has further boosted the industry. With 40 years’ experience, Scotland has a reputation for expertise and energy education. Scotland’s gas and oil sector supports 2,000 supply chain companies, 225,000 jobs and has exports to 100 countries worldwide. The city of Aberdeen is world-renowned as an international gas and oil center of excellence and is widely regarded as the ‘oil capital’ of Europe.
The food and drink sector is not only hugely important to the Scottish economy but is famous around the globe for some of the world’s most iconic products, including whisky, smoked salmon, venison and seafood. The food and drink industry contributes around $20.5bn worth of turnover annually and as the home of whisky, the country exports 38 bottles of the ‘water of life’ every 38 seconds.
Tourism also plays a pivotal role in the country’s success. From the cosmopolitan and culturally rich cities of Glasgow and the capital, Edinburgh, to the dramatic and picturesque Highlands and the Western Isles, Scotland is home to some of the stunning landscapes in the world. Welcoming millions of global visitors each year, the tourism sector currently employs more than 210,000 and helps generate around $8bn annually to the economy.
It’s home to 350 annual festivals, including the world’s largest and most famous arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Spanning three and a half weeks in August the festival, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary, features around 50,000 performances from every genre of the arts and sells over two million tickets.
One of the first items on many tourists’ agendas is a round of golf. Recognized globally as the home of golf, Scotland is where you’ll find some of the most legendary 18 holes in the world, including The Old Course, St Andrews; Turnery; Muirfield; Carnoustie and Gleneagles, which played host to the 2014 Ryder Cup. Golf tourism is a major contributor to Scotland’s economy and is estimated to be worth close to $274m annually.
From an investment point of view, Scotland is ideally placed. From a world-renowned workforce and internationally famous education system it’s the ideal base for overseas investment.
Scotland is currently home to more than 2,000 foreign businesses with a combined turnover of $125bn, including Amazon, Blackrock, HERO BPO, Intelenet, Mitsubishi, SKNL, Tata Steel and United Spirits. Scotland is also one of the most cost-effective regions in the UK, with a quality labor force and continues stream of talented graduates.
Whether it’s for business or leisure (and often both), Scotland should be top of your list.