The eyes of the world are currently on Scotland as athletes compete for medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Over the next few days we can expect to witness many feats of sporting prowess, and I’m looking forward to seeing as much as I can, even as the Games are coming close to their last.
However, the Commonwealth Games are about much more than sport – they commemorate the shared history between the nations taking part, and, more importantly, our shared values.
There is no better example of this shared future and history than the relationship between Scotland and India.
Our links are already strong - in education, business, tourism, and culture - our two countries enjoy a successful, collaborative relationship. But there is much unfulfilled potential, and our ambition is to strengthen these links.
The Games are a great opportunity to raise the profile of Glasgow and indeed the whole of Scotland. With great sporting competition set to take place, our venues appear on television screens around the world.
We’ve also had dignitaries from many countries visiting – whether to support their athletes taking part or to watch the action and enjoy what Scotland has to offer.
Having travelled to Delhi for the first international stop of the Queen’s Baton relay last October, at the start of the Commonwealth Games journey now ending in Glasgow, it was clear from the people I met that Scotland, her people and Scottish products are held in high regard. Furthermore, in Scotland, India, her people and her products are held in similar regard. We have a long shared history between us.
The Games are a great opportunity for Scottish and Indian businesses to build on this regard and shared history, and showcase their products and services to each other, exploring opportunities, developing partnerships and building lasting relationships.
Being a member of the Commonwealth gives us more than great Games every four years. A lot more. The Commonwealth is a family of nations. One that works together to support each others’ international goals. Our shared history creates the perfect conditions for trade to flourish.
While international trade is not without its challenges, it’s easy to think about perceived barriers – be that language or cultural differences. But with the right strategy and support from partner agencies, exporting can help to increase profit and grow a business. Many companies who have taken this important step tell us it wasn’t as difficult as they thought it would be. And shared Commonwealth values can smooth over cultural differences and make that step easier.
The very word “Commonwealth” used to mean public benefit or public good – you still hear the phrase “common weal” in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has one purpose, ‘to create opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish by raising the rate of sustainable economic growth’. It’s not about growth alone, it’s about sustainable growth for a purpose: the well-being and happiness of individuals and communities in every part of the country.
Scotland is a great place to do business. On Tuesday 22 July, the First Minister announced a total of more than 7,400 jobs created and safeguarded in Scotland through inward investment of £423 million in key sectors from finance and business services, enabling technology and ICT, and tourism. This represents a strong year with an increase of 300 on last year, with 2,515 of the overall total being high value.
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.
If watching our beautiful nation on your televisions has inspired you, I’d urge you to find out more. 2014 is an exciting year for Scotland and we’re opening our doors to the world. I’d encourage you to accept that invitation, and come to find out what we can offer you and your business.