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‘Scotland’s an outward looking nation … we should be confident about the future’

Category: Misc./General Career News
Article Date: April 1, 2007 | Publication: Sunday Herald | Author: Sean Connery

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Sir Sean Connery writes exclusively to mark the opening of Alba House, Scotland’s stall in New York

FOR THE last four years, Scotland has had a unique calling card in Manhattan. On the first Monday of April we have brought some of Scotland's top fashion designers, fabric makers,musicians,entertainers and athletes to a runway in New York and showed aside of modern Scotland to our friends in Americat hrough Dressed to Kilt.

Seeing Brian Cox,electric fiddle player Laura McGhee, Miss Scotland, rugby hero Jason White, and Gerard Butler mix with American icons like Linda Hamilton, Ted Turner, Chris Kattan, Bebe Neuwirth and Donald Trump makes for a great night. And after fifteen years of knowing Alex Salmond, it was great to see him finally put on a kilt for the good cause of promoting Scotland.

With all of Scotland's many strengths - our people are clearly our best asset. With Tartan Day in America just around the corner, it's worth remembering that there are people around the world who are watching Scotland and wishing us well as we take our next step forward.

There are almost as many Scots-Canadians as there are people in Scotland. And there are twice as many Americans claiming Scottish descent as in the whole of Scotland today. Australia has more Scots than Edinburgh does. And we have friends and family closer to home in England, Ireland and around Europe, too.

What all this means is that there is a huge reservoir of family ties and goodwill. It's not just ancestry though - it's also something more modern. To put it in marketing terms, Scotland has one hell of a good brand.

A generation ago people knew Scotland for our whisky and our golf. Now they are just as likely to know us because they do business with the Royal Bank or they've read about the latest biotech breakthrough from a Scottish scientist.

People around the world are also getting to know a new generation of Scottish faces: KT Tunstall at the top of the charts in Japan, Andy Murray competing so brilliantly on the courts in Australia, Gerard Butler on screens around the world as Hollywood's latest hero.

And incidentally - it is critical that we help cultivate the next generation of talent, too. It's no secret that I think the Scottish National Party has the right ideas to move Scotland forward. It is great to see them proposing ideas to strengthen our arts, too. For years I've talked about bringing more film production to Scotland. You think about the fact that tourists went to Ireland to see where Braveheart was filmed and you start to realise we're missing out on a lot more than tax revenue if we don't take the simple steps to get movie cameras rolling in Scotland. I don't think supporting the arts is a particularly political issue - frankly, it's just good sense economically and culturally, so I hope we can get on with it.

At last year's American Film Institute awards, I learned that just about every actor in Los Angeles has their own version of a Scottish accent, too - from Andy Garcia to Eddie Izzard to Mike Myers. How much better if we gave them all reasons to come do their next project in Edinburgh or Glasgow or the Highlands so they could practice their accents!

Scotland has always been an outward looking nation. And there is more we can do to build on this.

This week Scots will get a new home right in the heart of Manhattan. Alba House was opened by a small group of Scots who wanted Scotland to have a place to set out its stall in the United States and welcome new friends. I hear Scots elsewhere have done it, too, in Estonia and India.

I am proud of what Friends of Scotland has done to open Alba House and equally excited about what we are doing to offer scholarships to young students.Thirty years ago,I returned as 007 in Diamonds Are Forever. I think that I made the best use of the paycheck from that movie by funding hundreds of thousands of pounds to form the Scottish International Education Trust.Over the years we have helped scores of students advance their education when public funds weren't available. I am delighted that Friends of Scotland is in a position to help more students experience the best of Scotland's educational institutions.

There is every reason to be confident about Scotland's future. And we should make every opportunity to share that with our friends abroad. Tartan Day is one such opportunity. I can think of 364 other days that afford us opportunities to tell people more about who we are, too.


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