Scotland means business in Canada

New business group aims to turn Canada's cultural connections to Scotland into more investment opportunities for local companies
Ross McDonald, CEO of Clean West Capital

There's a lot more to Scotland than haggis, tartan and whisky.

A new B.C. business group, ScotCanBC, has been formed to spread the word that Scotland means business – and that includes high-tech, life sciences and renewable energy. The group's members are expat Scots who now live and work in Vancouver.

"It's a small town, Vancouver," said Ross McDonald, president and CEO of Clean West Capital and a member of the group. "Sometimes just by opening a few doors, whether that's on trade missions or otherwise, it's amazing how companies can find partnerships."

The Scottish government wants to build on the $500 million worth of products it currently exports to Canada and encourage Canadian companies to set up shop in Scotland. Teekay Shipping and CHC Helicopters are two B.C.-based companies that already operate in the country; Vancouver-based Sandman Hotel Group is also planning to expand to Scotland.

Insurance company Standard Life and SgurrEnergy, a renewable energy consultancy, are examples of Scottish companies doing business in B.C.

"Scotland is a nation that has been transforming itself, moving to a high-knowledge, high-value economy," said Lena Wilson, the CEO of Scottish Enterprise, a government economic development agency.

She identified several sectors that are important to Scotland's economy:

  • energy, which includes both oil and gas and expertise in clean energy;

  • financial services and wealth management;

  • food and drink, including whisky, craft beer, meat and seafood;

  • life sciences;

  • creative industries, including gaming and digital media;

  • education – five Scottish universities are included in the world's top 200; and

  • tourism – 100,000 Canadians visit Scotland every year, many of them researching their genealogy.

The country also exports people like McDonald, who has been working on building trade connections through the Scottish government's GlobalScot program for several years.

"The Scottish diaspora in Canada numbers five million people," said Wilson. "That's a really good platform to do anything."

Wilson isn't offended that most Canadians associate kilts and cookies with her country. With 15% of Canadians claiming some sort of Scottish heritage, she said those cultural connections are important.

"The whisky and the tartan and the shortbread … are iconic brands I'm really proud of," said Wilson. "We use them to leverage all the new stuff about stem-cell development and micro-electronics and Scottish satellites in space and all of that stuff."

Punching above its weight


Foreign investment in Scotland reached a 15-year high in 2012, according to an Ernst & Young report released in May 2013. The report noted that "Scotland's world-renowned strengths in areas ranging from manufacturing to energy to business services have continued to help it punch above its weight."

Scottish Development International has ambitious goals about expanding Scottish global trade. The agency hopes to increase the country's current exports of $38 billion by 50% by 2017.

In 2012, 41% of foreign investment in Scotland came from the U.S.; 2.2 % came from Canada.

Around 40 Canadian companies operate in Scotland and employ more than 4,000 people. Conversely, about 20 Scottish companies have opened offices in Canada.

Globetrotting Scots


Scottish Development International's (SDI) GlobalScot program began in 2001. Members are expatriate Scottish entrepreneurs and executives working in a range of industries; membership is invitation-only, "as we insist on the highest standards in order to maintain our reputation as a world-class resource for Scottish businesses," according to SDI's website.

Members are expected to help Scottish companies make connections with new markets, suppliers and decision makers, give advice on everything from marketing to business strategy, act as mentors and sit on advisory boards. They also promote Scotland as a destination for investment and office location.

Source: SDI

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