Scotland must keep supporting its key business sectors in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum – and do more to find the next big gap in the world market.
Colin Welsh, an energy finance expert who voted for the UK to leave the European Union, said yesterday that the next Silicon Valley could emerge in Scotland if younger generations are given backing.
Mr Welsh, the Aberdeen-based head of international energy investment at Simmons and Co, was speaking in front of about 75 people at the Press and Journal’s Business Briefing event at the Marcliffe Hotel.
He was part of an expert panel assembled to answer a question on many people’s lips following last month’s Brexit vote: “What the heck happens now?”
Mr Welsh said: “One of the things we do have is available access to entrepreneurial flair … but we’re very focused on traditional industries and the big miss is that for us to really succeed in the future we need to know what the next big industry is.
“The answer is probably not going to come from anyone in this room, but from teenagers and there’s not enough engagement around that to give them the tools to go out and create the next Silicon Valley.”
Aberdeen South MP Callum McCaig said Scotland does not need to devise a unique selling point (USP) to thrive post-Brexit, but lamented the country’s inability to keep hold of its success stories.
Mr McCaig, who was in the remain camp for the EU referendum, said: “Scotland has international goodwill in spades. People from other countries like coming here and trading, so we are pushing an open door.
“What we don’t have is the ability to keep businesses once they get over a certain size. I read about Scottish companies being sold for £20million or 30million, which is great for the individual who’s selling, but it’s almost always bought from somewhere else.”
Jill Webster, director of oil service firm Rubberatkins and until recently councillor and provost of Aberdeenshire Council, said north-east companies had earned their global reputation for being technically innovative.
Mr Welsh also reiterated his warning that the North Sea oil and gas industry was on the brink of a liquidity crisis, which would lead to large numbers of firms going bankrupt over the next year.
He accused the Scottish Government of not doing enough to help, saying if the oil and gas industry was based in the central belt, Holyrood would have found the cash to make a difference.
But Mr McCaig rebuffed suggestions of a central belt bias and said the Scottish Government had been at the forefront of efforts to support the north-east.