March Meeting—First Minister’s Visit

Welcome to Alex Salmond MSP

First Minister Alex Salmond was scheduled to speak for 15 minutes as the highlight of Glasgow South Business Club’s 25th anniversary in March 2012.

But he spoke for much longer and stayed well beyond the time expected, much to the delight of 110 Club members and guests who were able to speak with him one-to-one to discuss a multitude of issues.

In its usual efficient, business-like style, the Business Club had another big gun speaking that night at an informative event in Glasgow’s Science Centre – David C. Watt, the Executive Director of the Institute of Directors, Scotland. The two top rank guests and the delightful pannikins of hot food which flowed generously throughout the evening—to say nothing of the wine and soft drinks—made for a memorable celebration.

Club President Remo Pisaneschi welcomed everyone and Vice President Norman Ferguson gave an entertaining resume of the Club’s history.

Opening for the speakers, David C. Watt stated immediately that he thought he was the only cheery person in the gloom of the economic downturn. ‘The world is not in recession,’ he pointed out. ‘Just England, the US and Europe have that challenge.’ His advice was if you wanted to make money go to Africa, Singapore or Qatar where the economies were forging ahead. ‘The Institute of Directors is active across Scotland and we are keen to make this a better place to do business. There are still challenging times ahead but we should be out of that within three to five years.’ Among his many pointers were: the enormous potential of the 25,000 young people who were ‘disengaged’ from the work place; free travel was ‘absurd’ and the Royal Bank of Scotland was ‘not performing.’ He said: ‘I hate it with a vengeance! It is beyond me why we are paying bonuses to people in that bank.’

He was followed by a loquacious Alex Salmond in fiscal fighting form. Opening by thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for changing the budget day which allowed people to enjoy the Cheltenham Race instead of being on budget duty at Westminster; Mr Salmond outlined all the economic benefits coming to Glasgow. ‘This is a great city and it can build on it strengths.’ He detailed the Hydro Arena, the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the entertainment and conference income all bringing in people and vast sums of money to Glasgow; the Museum of Transport which had attracted more than 1 million visitors within six months and the Whitelees wind farm generating green energy.

Commenting on the important place that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have in the economy, he announced a £20 billion scheme to lend to SMEs at a low interest rate. CHECK!

He instanced the long list of ‘shovel ready’ projects he wanted to get under way. ‘You can’t get better prices in the construction world than now. Capital injection is real value for money because you simply won’t find a better time to build. I sent a list of shovel ready projects with planning permission to Westminster worth £302 million. They ranged from Ullapool Pier to Ayr Gaiety Theatre and from Clydeside Gateway to Creative Clyde. But the reality is the Scottish Government has had a reduction of 30% in the capital it is allowed to spend.’

On airports he said: ‘Time is money so direct flights are better,’ Emphasising innovation and scientific advance as the way forward, he said: ‘I’m not of the ‘Wha’s like us?’ category. I think we should stop allowing people to talk us down. We should build on our strengths and educate and train our people.’ Mr Salmond pointed out that Glasgow was the marine engineering centre of the planet 100 years ago. ‘But there is a major company in Methil today that can’t get qualified engineers. We must reverse that.’

Renewable energy would ‘dominate energy sources in the first half of this century.’ He claimed that marine engineering could employ 50,000 people by 2020 in the fabrication, installation and servicing of wave power and other renewable energy sources. ‘We are scratching the surface of offshore renewable energy,’ said Mr Salmond.

‘But most important of all,’ he said, ‘are our people. Education is the key. Invest in human capital and we will create something special.’

Club President Remo Pisaneschi enthused “This was an excellent event and I am thankful to The First Minister and David Watt of the IoD for spending their precious time to address the club this evening.”

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