Small country, big tribe

Small country, big tribe

Brian Souter BBShereen Nanjiani and Sir Brian Souter (photo: Iain Robinson)Scotland may be a small country – but worldwide the Scots are a huge and innovative tribe.

That was the message that came through loud and clear at our inaugural Building Bridges conference in Edinburgh. 

Off the back of it, we have already started talking with our partners about the best way forward.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be drawing on feedback from delegates to plan future activities and build the kinds of networks and online communities that will draw our global tribe together. 

The conference, which ran 17-18 March, looked at new ways for Scotland to connect with this tribe – the 50 million or so people around the world linked to us by heritage or by a strong affinity to our country. 

Delegates came from Africa, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. And the conference won the support of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as well as Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson, both of whom sent personal video messages.

Nicola Sturgeon 500X500Nicola Sturgeon addresses the conferenceOne of the best known faces of Scottish broadcasting, Shereen Nanjiani, hosted proceedings at RBS’s global headquarters at Gogarburn. 

And an impressive list of speakers included: Elizabeth Linder, Facebook’s Government and Politics Specialist for Europe, Middle East and Africa; Kingsley Aikins, CEO of Diaspora Matters; and Gordon Dewar, CEO of Edinburgh Airport. 

“Edinburgh could be a European sleeping giant in terms of technology,” said Jamie Coleman, identifying an area ambitious Scots should focus on. Jamie is Managing Director of Edinburgh-based CodeBase, the largest tech incubator in the UK. 

“We could be bigger than Berlin,” he said, “bigger than London.”

Others speakers focused on opportunities for Scots in fields as diverse as ecommerce, education, food and drink, and culture and the creative industries. 

Meanwhile, Sir Brian Souter, Founder and Chairman of the Stagecoach transport group, highlighted another invaluable resource that Scotland can exploit further – its people. 

Sir Brian believes that the Scottish character, combined with honesty and fair dealing, is a combination that can succeed anywhere in the world, and in any field. 

Roddy And Shereen3 310X350Shereen Nanjiani and ASI Chairman Roddy Gow”Scots are one of the most outward-looking people. Turn up at most isolated places and you’ll find a Scotsman and he’ll be getting on with people,” said Sir Brian, whose business interests extend from North America to Hong Kong by way of Turkey. 

“The thing about the Scots is they tend to have a very egalitarian approach to people, they accept people and value them. For the most part, we are good at this.”

“I agree with Sir Brian,” said Russell Dalgleish, Managing Partner of Exolta. “Sometimes what holds people back is an intransigence, a fear of the unknown. 

“But once you get out there it’s tremendous. The opportunities out there are tremendous.”

The conference garnered a positive response in the media with stories appearing in Scotland Now and in the Daily Record: 

Our challenge now is to distil our findings and produce an action plan for sharing with both the public and private sectors that can translate into a roadmap for the future.

Below is a short montage video featuring clips from the conference and the thoughts of some of its key speakers: 


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