As we celebrate Scotland’s national day today, anyone passing the British High Commission will notice a subtle change.
We are flying the Saltire, the cross of St Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland, whose feast night is marked by Scots across the world.
Today, we celebrate the best of Scotland, and all that this land and its people have contributed to the United Kingdom and to the world. Its history and heritage: a country rich in culture, creativity and commerce; home to some of the most breath-taking scenery imaginable.
The 12 months since the last St Andrew’s Day have been remarkable. It has been a year when Scotland has welcomed the world, hosted two great international sporting events, and when the Scottish people determined their own future.
2014 has been, unofficially at least, the year of Scotland. And what a year it has been!
The Commonwealth Games brought 6,500 athletes to Glasgow. They came from 71 nations and territories, representing a third of the world’s population, to compete in 17 sports over 11 glorious days.
Over a million people filled Glasgow’s sporting arenas, and over a billion more were willing on the athletes from their homes. India more that held her own in Glasgow, coming fifth in the medals table, with 15 Gold and a total medal haul of 64.
And just when we thought that the agony and ecstasy of sport had reached its climax, the eyes of more than half a billion viewers in 183 countries turned to Gleneagles as Europe’s and America’s best golfers battled it out for the glory of winning the Ryder Cup.
2014 was also the year that the United Kingdom demonstrated that values aren’t just something we talk about abroad - we live by them at home.
In a defining moment in British history, and by a decisive majority, the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. Who would have thought that politics could be more exciting than sport?
Scotland today has a huge amount to offer.
This year looks like being a record year for tourism, but in a usual year, 20 million people can be expected to visit Scotland, four times more than the entire Scottish population.
Tourists can visit Scotland’s vibrant cities, like Edinburgh, which hosts the world’s largest arts festival every August. You can enjoy Scotland’s majestic Highlands, perhaps taking in some of the locations for the 1998 Bollywood epic Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
Foodies can indulge in Scotland’s world class food and drink, whether it’s freshly caught seafood in one of the many coastal villages, or getting lost on the whisky trail as they visit Scotland’s many famed distilleries.
Some 40,000 overseas students, including many Indians, come to Scotland every year to seek an education fit for a King. It was, after all, at one of Scotland’s world-class universities, St Andrews, that HRH Prince William studied and where he met his future wife.
This academic excellence helps to continue Scotland’s proud tradition of innovation. With the highest level of education in the UK outside of London, Scotland is already a top location for Research and Development and Foreign Direct Investment in the UK.
Household names like Amazon, Dell, Samsung, Microsoft, IBM, Morgan Stanley and Pfizer have already moved their operations to Scotland. And businesses can make use of Europe’s fifth largest financial centre, Edinburgh, and the expertise that Scotland offers in sectors as diverse as business process outsourcing; financial services; life sciences and biotech; oil and gas; renewable energy; and technology.
And let’s not forget Scotland’s contribution to global fashion. It’s no accident that tartan and high quality Scottish textiles are beloved of designers the world over.
This St Andrew’s day, take another look at Scotland. Whether it is uncovering forgotten Scottish ancestors, forging a new business relationship or enjoying an unforgettable holiday, you can be sure it will surprise you.