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International investment: what is it about Scotland?

05 Jul 2023 • 5 minute read

Mark Hallan, our Director of Global Investment, explains why Scotland continues to impress on a global economic scale.

In the wake of EY's latest Scotland Attractiveness Survey which put Scotland top of UK investment locations outside London, Mark Hallan — our Director of Global Investment — explains Scotland's strengths and why more companies are locating here than ever. 

A reputation for excellence 

"Scotland’s reputation as an ideal location for global companies to locate, grow, invest, and innovate is well recognised and longstanding.

"I’ve been privileged to work in international trade and investment for more than two decades. My colleagues and our partners across the public and private sectors have worked hard to develop a compelling proposition for our country, attracting those who live and work beyond our borders.

"My roles have also given me the opportunity to speak with countless international businesses, investors, and organisations over the years, who have been struck by what Scotland has to offer.

"But despite our reputation for excellence, enticing people to invest is no easy feat – even for Scotland."

Resilience and growth in tough times

"Attracting inward investment has always been fiercely competitive and it’s becoming even more challenging. More nations and regions are committing ever-increasing resources to secure a decreasing number of investment projects.

"International factors such as the Covid-19 outbreak, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and stubbornly high inflation rates, have further restricted global growth. The upside? Scotland’s growth amid the gloom, with recent announcements from EY and Scottish Development International (SDI) showing impressive growth.  

"EY’s latest Annual Attractiveness Survey showed Scotland remained the most attractive location in the UK outside of London for foreign direct investment (FDI). EY’s figures, which cover the calendar year January to December 2022, aligned with our own SDI figures that showed that more than 8500 planned real living wage jobs were generated through inward investment in 2022/2023.

"The figures show how we continue to strike a balance between welcoming new and innovative projects into Scotland, and safeguarding jobs and supply chains created by our existing investors. Both are integral to Scotland’s success story."

Read the full Annual Attractiveness Survey on opens in a new window  

A focus on values and green energy 

"So, how has Scotland remained so competitive at attracting global investment?

"From a strategic point of view, three things have helped: playing to Scotland’s strengths, focusing on our values, and adopting a ‘Team Scotland’ approach to promote the very best our country has to offer. Using Shaping Scotland’s Economy (the Scottish government’s inward investment strategy) as our starting point, we have focused our activities on delivering projects in opportunity areas where Scotland is a genuine world leader.

"Crucially, these sectors, such as offshore wind, continue to enjoy global growth. Indeed, the energy transition was the most common type of inward investment project supported by Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies in the past year, demonstrating our strengths in this sector."

"Scotland’s commitment to net zero is the reason why more international companies are choosing to develop low-carbon projects here. Only recently, Japanese firm Sumitomo Electrical Industries announced plans to develop a power cable facility in the Scottish Highlands to support the offshore wind sector.

"Our unique approach to attracting inward investment, in which the public sector works together with academia and industry to promote Scotland’s many strengths, is unrivalled. Indeed, businesses have told us that this joined-up approach has been fundamental in choosing Scotland over other locations.

"But above all else, it is Scotland’s world-class resources that continue to make us a magnet for global investment. Our incredible workforce, world-renowned universities, competitive cost base, supportive business environment, magnificent natural resources, and the unparalleled quality of life on offer, means Scotland is always on the radar of potential investors."

A plan for more, better jobs

"The impact these investors have on Scotland’s economy is significant. Recent Scottish Enterprise research showed that the 8500 planned jobs created or secured through SDI-supported inward investment projects in 2022-2023 could potentially generate around £115 million for Scotland over a three years.

"The research also showed that when wider impacts in the Scottish supply chain and employee spending are included, the planned jobs secured have the potential to support an additional 7500 jobs for the Scottish economy.

"Inward investment not only delivers high-quality, well-paid jobs, but can also act as a catalyst to accelerate innovation in fast-growing industries.

"So, the sky's the limit when it comes to Scotland's global reputation — I'm looking forward to what's next." 

Read about Scottish jobs created by inward investment 

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