During his reign as Canada's second prime minister, Scottish-born Alexander Mackenzie returned to his homeland to plead with the lairds not to forget about the British Empire's extremities. “The people of Dundee and Canada should endeavour to trade a little more in the future than they have done in the past,” the Liberal leader said in a speech to that Scottish city's elite. Fast-forward some 130 years, and it's Scotland's top politician with tam in hand asking Canada for a wee bit of support. “We believe there must be scope for increased collaboration,” says Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell, who visited both Canada and the U.S. in late October to drum up investment.
McConnell says Scotland's strengths in life sciences, financial services and renewable energy match up nicely with Canada's, yet 2003 exports from Scotland to Canada totalled roughly £300 million ($630 million), mostly in financial services and manufactured products. That's just a fraction of the more than $9 billion in goods and services the U.K. sends our way every year. The disparity is one of the reasons Scotland is setting up an investment office in Toronto. The outpost will promote Scotland as an investment location for Canadian businesses, and push Scottish exports and expertise. Until now, Scotland's economic interests in Canada have been served by an office in Boston and by the U.K. Trade & Investment (UKTI) office in Toronto, but that arrangement doesn't seem to be working.
“Last year, the UKTI won 35 investment projects from Canada, and Scotland didn't feature in any of them,” says Lorna Jack, president for the Americas with Scottish Development International, Scotland's economic growth arm. “That was quite surprising, and that's because we're not on the ground here, so we're not able to articulate the Scottish proposition.”
That proposition is a little hazy, since Scotland's devolved government-similar to a Canadian province, but with less power over the economy and more, um, demonstrative members-doesn't set foreign relations or trade policies. However, McConnell says Scotland can offer a convenient jumping-off point into both Europe and the wider U.K., and he champions the strong research capabilities at the country's universities.
But it's not just money McConnell is wanting. He has publicly called on members of the Scottish Diaspora-some 4.5 million of them in Canada alone-to haste back 'ome, or, at the very least, become ambassadors for Scotland in order to increase immigration, investment, tourism and foreign students. Scotland's population has been declining since 1974. But last year, the country managed to attract 26,000 newcomers, 42% of them from outside the U.K., something McConnell attributes to the Scottish Executive's Fresh Talent initiative. “We want Scotland to be an in-migration nation, not an emigration nation,” he says. If McConnell is successful, Scotland may finally shed its hard-up image after decades of decline. Alexander Mackenzie must be smiling.