Andrew Dunlop's speech to the Institute of Young Directors

The Scotland Office Minister addressed the Institute of Young Directors in Edinburgh

Lord Dunlop

In a keynote speech to the Institute of Young Directors in Edinburgh the Scotland Office Minister Andrew Dunlop made a call to make Scotland “the best entrepreneurial nation in the world.”

He said to achieve this it was important that the “UK and Scottish Government work constructively together - whilst respecting political differences - to build a climate of trust and confidence to further the interests of all people in Scotland.”

Full transcript of Speech:

I’m delighted to be here to support the Scottish launch of the IoD’s Young Directors’ Forum. The Forum is a fantastic initiative to help foster Scotland’s next generation of leaders. And I congratulate the IoD for setting it up and promoting it.

It provides an invaluable network for building relationships, exchanging ideas and sharing experiences as you develop your careers as directors and entrepreneurs.

You’ve heard from Louise who is an inspirational Scottish leader.

Louise is ambitious for Scotland. She wants Scotland to be the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. I’m ambitious for Scotland too. And Louise’s ambition is one we can all get behind. Now I’ve another ambition for Scotland. I want Scotland to be the most entrepreneurial place in the world.


Because if we’re to tackle poverty, address the scourge of long-term unemployment and deliver social justice, and we must, then we need first to generate the means to achieve our social goals.

We all know from our own lives that before you decide how to spend your money, you first have to earn it.
And that’s where Scotland’s entrepreneurs come in. In fact that’s where you come in. We all have different ideas of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Ideas creator, opportunity spotter, risk taker, job provider, value enhancer, you name it.

Of course an entrepreneur can be all of these things. And let’s be clear – you don’t have to start up your own business to be an entrepreneur. You can work in a FTSE 100 company and be an entrepreneur. You can work in a business that’s been in the family for years and be an entrepreneur. And you can work for one of our great public services and be an entrepreneur.

Because the reality is that to be an entrepreneur is not a job or a profession – it’s a state of mind. It’s about the restless energy always looking to improve things for the better. It’s about the sense of personal responsibility and pride to always deliver what you’ve promised.

Above all it’s about caring for your business as if it were your own. Now I was lucky enough 25 years ago to set up my own business. I even became a member of the IoD. At the time it seemed crazy – the business bit, not the IoD of course.

Mistakes – I made them. And regrets – to borrow a phrase – I’ve had a few. But the business survived, became a success and is still going strong today under different ownership. And looking back it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – daunting though it seemed at the time.

So if you’ve got a good business idea – my advice is go for it. I learnt a lot from running a business for 20 years. The biggest lesson I learnt was that good structures, process and organisation matter. But people matter more. If you get the people wrong, no amount of process will compensate.

It’s about creating a positive environment of trust and confidence that empowers people to give of their best. So when I look at Scotland today I see a nation that means business, bursting with pride, crackling with creativity and exploding with energy.

And when I travel around Scotland I meet inspirational people doing inspirational things. Lewis MacLean whose Highland bakery is exporting shortbread across the globe – from China to Mexico.

Andrew Dobbie whose digital communications company is called ‘Made Brave’ for a reason – to encourage his clients to push the boundaries to promote their business.

Or Alex Feechan, making the most of support from Entrepreneurial Spark – a great Scottish movement – to start up a new business providing cycling clothing designed specifically with women in mind.

And each in their own unique way spotting an opportunity, reaching for that competitive edge, determined to succeed. Each making their own contribution to the UK’s performance as the fastest-growing developed economy in the world and making Scotland our strongest performer after London and the South East.

All of this is in the great tradition of Scottish enterprise.

From the Scots of the past, David Dunbar Buick who founded the Detroit car company, Thomas Glover who helped establish Mitsubishi in Japan and William McKinnon whose businesses - forerunners of Inchcape - spanned the globe.

To the role models and mentors for today’s go-getters, Tom Hunter and Ian Wood, Dundee’s David Jones who has helped to sell some of the world’s most successful video games, or Professor Andy Porter turning his science into commercial success by finding a new way to fight super-bugs.

Figures who also exemplify another Scottish instinct - the strong desire to use good fortune – often literally - to give something back to your own community. Enterprise with a social as well as an economic purpose.

Unlocking Scotland’s entrepreneurial potential places a heavy responsibility on politicians and governments not to mess up. And by messing up I mean focusing on process at the expense of results – “discussers” and “debaters” getting in the way of “doers”.

Our national discourse over the last few years has been dominated by discussion of constitutional structures and process. Don’t get me wrong: they matter, of course they do. That’s why we are legislating to make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

But people matter more. So you can have the best constitutional structures and processes in the world. Making them work – and making them work well - requires personal commitment and goodwill. Today’s constitutional reality is no longer simply about what is devolved to the Scottish Government and reserved to the UK Government. Today’s reality is about the many responsibilities that are shared.

So it’s about how we work constructively together – whilst respecting political differences - to build a climate of trust and confidence to further the interests of all people in Scotland. It’s about grown-up government, in which genuine concerns can be raised about each other’s areas of competence, without offence being taken or dividing lines drawn.

Take just two examples…

Higher education is the Scottish Government’s responsibility, yet Scotland’s universities depend in part on research funding that is UK-wide. The success of Scotland’s great universities therefore matters hugely to us all. And improving productivity is a challenge to which the whole of the UK must rise if we are to keep our economy powering along. The UK Government pulls many of the fiscal levers that make the UK one of the most attractive places to do business. Yet many of levers of influence for Scotland – like housing or the planning system – are devolved.

So the message is clear. Common interests need promoting with collective effort. Scotland’s prosperity and security will be built by the talents of the many, not the few.

I wish you and the Young Directors Forum well.

You are signing up to be Scotland’s next generation of business leaders. The job of government is to support you, not get in your way.

So let a thousand thistles bloom!

Thank you.

Published 2 October 2015