Herald article – Ports key to business development

by David Birrell, Chief Executive Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

The importance of shipping and trade to the economy in the UK, an island nation, is business critical and we must continue to encourage and support the development of our port infrastructure to ensure our competitiveness in a global market place.

Our ports in Scotland are fundamental to our economic success where not only do they have a unique role providing a base for trade and employment but also in connecting communities.

Over two thirds of exports in Scotland are distributed via our ports. The ports industry also offers a range of other important services supporting the offshore oil industry, maintaining ferry links to island communities, the growing leisure and recreation sectors as well as the largest fishing industry in the UK.

We must ensure that at all levels of government that policy plans and decisions, including local planning conditions, reflect not only the importance of our ports today but provide an environment in the future to support even greater investment and continued development of a world class supply chain infrastructure.

The success of our capital city has been supported and has been dependent over the centuries on a thriving port in Leith. In fact, one of the campaigns by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce was to create a time signal for ships in the harbour of Leith and the Firth of Forth.

This resulted in a decision in 1861 to fire a gun from the castle each day at 13.00 and is tradition that still exists today.

The Port of Leith is the largest enclosed deep water port in Scotland. It has been the capital’s working port since the 12th century and has benefited from significant capital investment in recent years to develop the port’s infrastructure.

An exciting and growing opportunity for Scotland is the exponential growth of the Cruise Business. This is also benefitting our capital city where we expect this year to enjoy over 100,000 new visitors arriving on over 80 cruise ships.

This provides new opportunities for all our tourism businesses and another opportunity to show cruise visitors what we have to offer and to generate the desire to plan a return visit to Scotland.

We look forward to new and exiting opportunities for our ports, a vital part of Scotland’s infrastructure.

And whilst technology has moved on, our one o’clock gun in Edinburgh still provides that moment of reassurance that the latest electronic gadget is still keeping good time!


Study to reveal the economic benefits of Angel Investing Group


The wider economic impact of the investment, mentoring and management support activities of the Scottish angel investing group, Archangel Investors, is to be explored in a new study.

Archangels, which has been investing in early stage companies since 1992, has commissioned the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde Business School to carry out the study. Dr Niall MacKenzie and Margaret Coughtrie will examine the economic impact of Archangels and the companies in which it has invested.

Specifically, the study will examine: job creation; revenue generation; sales revenues; profitability; and overall gross value added. The study’s findings are expected to be published in the summer of 2015.

Archangels was established by entrepreneurs, Mike Rutterford and Barry Sealey, in 1992 following their successful investment in what was to become Optos plc upon its flotation in 2006. Optos recently agreed to be acquired by Japanese group, Nikon, for £259m.

Since its inception, Archangels whose business model is built on investors pooling their resources to support Scottish businesses principally in the high tech and life sciences sectors, has supported a total of 80 companies – many with multiple rounds of investment funding. Archangels now has over 70 investor members.

David Ovens, Chief Operating Officer at Archangels, said:
“We know how much has been invested over the last 23 years and how much has been returned to investors, but that’s only part of the story. To truly understand the impact that Archangels has had, we need to dig deeper. How many jobs have been created? How much profit has been generated? How successful have our invested companies been? What have they contributed to the Scottish economy? These are the real measures of success and we’re keen to know the answers.”

Dr Niall MacKenzie of the University of Strathclyde said:
“Early stage investment is of fundamental importance to helping companies grow and realise their potential. To this end Archangels have played a critical role in developing some of Scotland’s brightest companies and entrepreneurial culture and the Hunter Centre are delighted to engage with them on such an important subject. We have developed an innovative framework of analysis which captures both the investment process and its impacts. We are looking forward to using this to assess the impact Archangels have had, and will no doubt continue to have in the future, on Scottish companies and beyond.”

Times Educational Supplement – Running a tight ship to ensure skills success

Post-Wood Commission, the onus is on schools to improve their vocational offering, finds Julia Belgutay. An Edinburgh secondary shows what can be achieved, from boatbuilding to bike mechanics

Rarely has a review of the Scottish education system been as wholeheartedly endorsed as the report by Sir Ian Wood’s Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.

The challenge of keeping young people unlikely to head to university engaged, and supporting them into a meaningful career, is one that Scotland has grappled with for decades. Last month’s TESS survey of local authorities on the number of students who still leave education at the earliest opportunity is one indicator of how prevalent the problem is (“Outlook is chilly after rise in winter leavers”, News, 27 February).

Young people leaving school at the end of S4 have always been more likely to end up as Neet (not in education, employment or training), and when they move on to college, their dropout rate is higher than average.

The Wood Commission report, published last June, recognises that all parties in education, from schools to colleges, have a role to play in tackling these challenges – and so too do employers. They must work together to ensure meaningful routes for all young people and create a truly world-class vocational education system that is not second-best to Scotland’s universities, the report insists.

And it is very clear on how the education sector should make this happen: schools, along with further education and industry partners, should open up pathways that start in the senior phase and lead to recognised vocational qualifications that stand alongside academic ones. “Their delivery should be explicitly measured and published alongside other school performance indicators,” the report says.

Furthermore, the Wood Commission stresses that preparing all young people for employment should form “a core element of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with appropriate resource dedicated to achieve this”.

Diving into the talent pool

The Scottish government swiftly endorsed the report. Only months later, Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy was published and local authority funding was announced to support the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.

“Fundamentally, this…is about employers playing an active role, both shaping and benefiting from Scotland’s education system by helping to create the talent pool they need and recruiting young employees,” said Roseanna Cunningham, minister for fair work, skills and training.

Added to which came this declaration in the Youth Employment Strategy: “In [2021], there will be evidence of increased employer satisfaction, more young people completing vocational qualifications, more achieving qualifications at a higher level, more young people in all secondary schools in Scotland progressing to college, training, university and employment.”

Ambitious as this sounds, most schools will not be starting from scratch. Indeed, the Wood Commission and the government recognise that examples of good practice can already be found across Scotland. And it was certainly no coincidence that Craigroyston Community High School in Edinburgh was chosen as the location for the launch of the commission’s report.

In 2013, the school dramatically changed its curriculum for the senior phase and the way the last three years of school are structured. A range of vocational courses – including boatbuilding, bike mechanics, hospitality, early education and childcare, and creative hairdressing and make-up trends – have been introduced into the timetable. Crucially, all courses lead to a recognised qualification or award.

The aim has been to establish a curriculum that “meets the needs of all young people”, explains headteacher Stephen Ross. “We also have this belief that every young person has the entitlement to stay on to the end of sixth year,” he adds. “Often in secondary schools the least-able kids are encouraged to leave at the end of fourth year.”

These young people are frequently more difficult to deal with, and they are trapped in this negative role early on in their school careers, Ross says. This is why the commitment of his staff is so crucial: “Not every school would want to keep their most challenging kids.”

Integral and flexible

At Craigroyston, wholehearted change was required, not simply a few vocational classes here and there. “None of the courses are just bolt-ons,” says depute head Gib McMillan. The senior phase is now about “stage, not age”, he explains. From S4 to S6, pupils do the courses and qualifications they are ready for, regardless of age. They also have a free choice when picking subjects for the senior phase, rather than being restricted to options from a number of columns.

Although this approach makes for challenging timetabling, McMillan stresses that “it is possible”. As a result of the changes, the staying-on rate from S4 to S5 has increased from 56 per cent to 86 per cent, and just under a quarter of the cohort gain experience at college.

Students are relishing the new opportunities. Sebastian Zpak, an S4 pupil, took part in a project to build a racing car. He was responsible for design and branding tasks, and travelled to Texas as part of the course. He also had to fundraise and give presentations to business people. “Doing the course helped in a lot of ways,” he says. “We got a lot of people skills. I was quite shy before, but now I am able to talk to people more easily.”

Ciaran Harrison, also in S4, agrees. He is doing a media course and has created videos to highlight the progress of some of the school’s other courses, which have been shown in assembly. “I was interested in film-making and was already making short videos,” he tells TESS. “We now have a YouTube channel and have just reached 1,000 subscribers. I think having done the course will be a great advantage in whatever I do next.”

Partnership working, highlighted in the Wood Commission report as a perceived challenge for schools, has been crucial to offering such a variety of opportunities at Craigroyston. The boatbuilding course is a Muirhouse Youth Development Group initiative, funded by Creative Scotland/Big Lottery Fund and Edinburgh Airport. The bike mechanics course is delivered by social enterprise My Adventure.


Edinburgh College, which has a campus close to the school, also plays a vital role in helping to deliver subjects in areas from childcare to hospitality. Hugh McCluskey, curriculum manager for hospitality and professional cookery at the college, says that Craigroyston pupils are not taught as a distinct group but instead work with other students at a similar level, as well as HND students who have to carry out supervisory tasks as part of their course.

Although the theoretical part of the course is delivered in school, the young people spend time in college once a week and go through four-week rotations to complete units on workplace safety and how to cook meat, fish and vegetables.

“The main objective is to make them work-ready,” Mr McCluskey says. He adds that once the pupils have completed the course, they can move on to a level 2 qualification at the college, ensuring they have a clear progression route.

But although Craigroyston may have embraced the challenge of meeting all young people’s needs earlier than some other schools, it is determined to continue supplementing and improving the options available to its pupils. A number of new courses will be introduced next year, and some opportunities will be offered as early as S2 or S3.

In the senior phase, pupils will be able to take part in a timetabled course with Apex Hotels, developed by school staff with Danielle Ramsay, group recruitment manager at Apex. The four most successful students on the course will be able to go straight into a job with the hotel group.

As with the professional cookery course, the theoretical side will be delivered in school. However, pupils will also gain practical experience in all aspects of the hotel industry, from housekeeping and food and beverages to reception duties. And students who aren’t taken on by Apex will still be able to work towards a number of industry-relevant certificates, adds Elaine Gray, a Craigroyston teacher who helped to develop the course and is also instrumental in delivering childcare qualifications.

The aim of the hotel course, Apex’s Ramsay explains, is to “develop the pupils’ customer service and operational skills while at the same time giving them the opportunity to learn about the other support functions within the organisation”.

It is this kind of commitment that has been key to the success of Craigroyston’s vocational programme. Headteacher Ross is in no doubt that the support of his staff has been crucial to making the innovative plans work. And this will be just as vital for all those schools about to take the next steps in their own journeys.

Standard Life opens up workplace scheme to all employers

standard life2

Standard Life, the UK’s biggest workplace pension provider, is removing all entry criteria for its Good to Go auto enrolment pension – opening it up to all employers left to stage.

Previously, the scheme had three main criteria: a minimum of five members, a minimum average contribution level, and a limit on the proportion of members on short-term contracts.

Since auto enrolment began in 2012, Standard Life has helped over 3,800 employers to set up Qualifying Workplace Pension Schemes for their employees. With the right data to hand, its Good to Go solution provides employers with automated quote, application and scheme set-up in less than six minutes. From the end of March 2015, Standard Life will remove all minimum eligibility criteria, paving the way for any small or medium-sized business which has not already staged to enrol their employees quickly and efficiently into a high quality pension proposition.

Standard Life currently looks after more than 1.6 million UK workplace customers – almost 500,000 of whom joined through auto enrolment.

Alan Ritchie, Head of Employer & Trustee Proposition at Standard Life, said: “We believe it’s important that all employers have access to a high quality auto enrolment proposition that can deliver great outcomes for their employees. That’s why we’re making our flagship solution available to all employers who haven’t yet staged, no matter what their size. Our move addresses the auto enrolment needs of the 40,000 small and medium-sized employers expected to stage during 2015 and the hundreds of thousands of employers who will stage in 2016 and 2017. Good to Go moves from strength to strength in its ability to ease the enrolment journey for businesses throughout the UK.”

Blue Light will Shine for World Autism Awareness Day

Social media users can shine their support for World Autism Awareness Day by turning one of Edinburgh’s most iconic monuments blue.

Melville Monument in St Andrew Square will change to the condition’s symbolic colour if people tweet #blue to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Twitter account @Edinburgh_CC to mark the awareness day tomorrow night (Thursday April 2nd).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time will be the topic of a special Giant Book Group, while a Dance Back to the Future club night and a free concert are also amongst the events taking place this week to mark the international day in the capital.

Autism affects around 5,000 people in Edinburgh and is a lifelong developmental disorder which can affect people with or without a learning disability – sometimes known as Aspergers Syndrome. It affects both children and adults, and can have a profound effect on the way a person understands and interacts with the world around them.

The Council runs a number of services and offers support to those with the condition and their families through its Autism Edinburgh campaign and its autism plan. Support includes trained autism champions; Aspire, which helps young people move on from school and college into further education or work; family support through Positive Pathways, and a specialised online training programme.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon will be discussed at the Giant Book Group in the Central Library from 6.30pm tomorrow, in advance of the stage adaptation at the Festival Theatre later this month. A panel consisting of Health, Social Care and Housing Convener, Councillor Ricky Henderson, Cerin Richardson from Edinburgh Theatres, Matthew Day from Autism Initiatives and parent Amanda Wilson will launch the event, at which members of the public will form groups to talk about the book.

Clubbers will celebrate the day at Dance Back to the Future at Electric Circus from 10pm on the same night, while a live music event featuring Pet, the Just Joans and The Fast Girls is being held tonight at Upward Mobility in St Margaret’s House on London Road from 7pm.

Cllr Henderson said: “World Autism Awareness Day is a fantastic opportunity to consider how some of us struggle every day through no fault of our own, and reminds us to show compassion and understanding.

“The Council is committed to supporting those in need to reach their full potential and to lead happy and independent lives.”

You can find out more information about World Autism Awareness Day on the Autism Speaks website.

Final Intern Blog

My time at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce is almost at an end and I will be sad to go! I have had so much fun working with the team over these past few weeks and I leave having gained lots of valuable experience.

Since I last blogged I have attended several interesting events starting with the Chamber Dining Club, which took place at a local French restaurant called La Garrigue. The event provided another opportunity for me to work on my networking skills and there were a few familiar faces there too in the form of both my lecturers, Professor Joe Goldblatt and Mhairi Sumner. Looking back, this was one of my favourite events with its relaxed atmosphere, great food and excellent chat!


Next I attended the 5th Annual Sue Bruce Breakfast at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Dame Sue is the CEO of The City of Edinburgh Council and the event – which is a huge success each year – saw over 160 delegates in attendance. Dame Sue, who earlier this year announced her retirement, reflected on her achievements since taking up the position of CEO in 2011 and it was fascinating to learn more about her career.

Last week I was invited to sit in on a course called Edinburgh Knowledge Transfer, which helps to support and develop micro businesses. Leading the course was Sarah Buchanan-Smith, who owns a consultancy firm. I found the course enlightening and I enjoyed chatting to Sarah about the path that led her to start her own business.

So before I say farewell I’d like to thank the whole team at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce for being a very friendly bunch (and apologise if I’ve given you the flu!) and a particular thank you to Sian Downes who offered me this internship and has demonstrated to me how to be a fantastic event planner and coordinator. I hope to work with you all again in the not so distant future!

Airport Chief Executive scoops top awards at Institute of Directors Scotland Awards

Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport, was named Director of the Year for businesses with turnover of more than £35 million at the IoD Scotland Awards in Glasgow last night.
Chosen for his motivational leadership, focus on customer service and commitment to enhancing Edinburgh Airport, Gordon took home the top award following a record-breaking year for Scotland’s busiest airport.
In addition to the top award, Gordon was also took home the Edinburgh, Lothians & the Borders Regional Director Award.
With 2014 seeing the airport’s busiest year ever in terms of passenger numbers, new business and investment, Gordon’s leadership, influence and expertise has continued to steer the airport to achieve unprecedented success, with long-haul passenger traffic up almost 90% last year.
Gordon was instrumental in securing a £150 million investment from the airport’s owners and Board to underpin a five-year investment programme. In the last 12 months, he has empowered teams across the airport to deliver ground-breaking, industry-leading investment projects with customer service placed firmly at the centre.
From new X-ray systems in security to new self-service technology to speed up the passenger check-in process, Gordon is heavily involved in developing all aspects of airport operations.
Congratulating Gordon on his achievement, Sir John Elvidge, Chairman of Edinburgh Airport, said: “After celebrating the busiest, most successful year ever for a Scottish airport, to be recognised with not one but two awards is fantastic validation of Gordon’s hard work and dedication.
“Having recently been named Director of the Year at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, it’s fantastic he is being recognised for his hard work to improve Scotland’s connectivity with the rest of the world.
“Gordon’s commitment and passion for his role is clear to see. He motivates and inspires teams across the airport to achieve success every day and we’re extremely proud to call him our Chief Executive.”

More information from:
Stuart Young, Communications Officer, Edinburgh Airport
07730 148022 or stuart_young@edinburghairport.com
About Edinburgh Airport:
Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s busiest airport. More than 40 airlines serve 100-plus destinations and over 10 million passengers passed through the airport in 2014 – the busiest year ever for a Scottish airport.
July 2014 was the airport’s busiest month ever with over 1.1 million passengers travelling through its terminal.
It is the fifth largest in the UK, in terms of passenger numbers, and employs over 5000 people, contributing hundreds of millions of pounds to Scotland’s economy.
Edinburgh Airport was named best in Britain, and top three in Europe, for passenger satisfaction, at the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards for 2012 and ‘Best European Airport (5-10m passengers)’ at the ACI EUROPE Best Airport Awards for 2012. It has also won Scottish Airport of the Year at the Scottish Transport Awards in 2013 and 2014.