Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside today addressed the Scottish Parliament with a speech at the Scottish Government Debate: Scotland Can Do. See what Mark had to say below and watch the speech in full:
I speak in the debate from the perspective of someone whose father took the decision—in 1998, along with one of his fellow employees at a company—to start up a business, which is still going and has grown. Therefore, I have a keen interest in the entrepreneurs and businesspeople of the future being supported, because I have seen at first hand how businesses that develop from an early idea can grow and flourish.
It is worth noting that, although, as the Deputy First Minister acknowledged, there is undoubtedly a road still to travel in some areas and work that still needs to be done—hence the establishment of the Scotland can do framework—between 2008 and 2013, which is the most recent period for which figures are available, the number of business births in Scotland increased by 32.8 per cent compared with an increase of 29.8 per cent in the UK as a whole. I accept that Mr Fraser and I could trade statistics, but I think that there is a positive trend on business start-ups in Scotland. There were 351 businesses per 10,000 adults in 2006, whereas there are now 377 businesses per 10,000 adults, so progress has been made. There is undoubtedly work still to be done, and I think that the debate will help to crystallise some of the ways in which that work can be progressed.
One of the welcome measures that the Scottish Government has put in place has been the small business bonus scheme. Many of those in my constituency who have started up small businesses following the introduction of the small business bonus scheme think that it was an important factor in allowing them to weather the early years, when businesses often find it difficult to get things going and can be subject to financial pressures. Measures such as the small business bonus scheme are extremely important to businesses, especially when they are set in a context in which—particularly in the north-east of Scotland, although I appreciate that the same will be true in parts of England—a greater distance needs to be travelled to get products to customers and to markets outside the immediate local area, with the result that additional cost is incurred. Changes such as the recent increase in VAT to 20 per cent affect the margins of such companies and can be the difference between someone choosing to pursue an idea and their deciding not to do so.
I note that Mr Fraser suggested that we needed to have more role models for young people in particular. Being the helpful soul that I am, I have two examples to give of entrepreneurs in the north-east of Scotland who I think are exactly the kind of role models that we should be pushing—indeed, they are being pushed as role models in that part of the country.
The first is Jamie Hutcheon. Although his business is not in my constituency, I have had the pleasure of meeting him and sampling the products that he produces. He established a company called Cocoa Ooze, which is a chocolatier that manufactures high-quality chocolate products, in 2008 at the age of just 17. He now employees a team of 25 people and has a coffee shop and a chocolate workshop in the city centre of Aberdeen, which provides opportunities for people to take part in chocolate-making workshops and parties. He recently won the young talent award at the Scotland Food & Drink excellence awards. Jamie decided to start his business while he was training to be a chef and working alongside a master chocolatier.
Another individual, who is based in my constituency, is Dr Deborah O’Neil who established NovaBiotics in 2004. That was a spin-out company in the area of biotechnology, developing anti-infectives for difficult-to-treat, medically unmet diseases. NovaBiotics has been a big success story in north-east Scotland, and Deborah was given the award for entrepreneur of the year at the 2014 Grampian awards for business excellence.
I highlight those examples for a couple of reasons. First, those two individuals have shown entrepreneurial excellence and are the kind of people we should be pushing as role models; secondly, they came into the entrepreneurial field from very different directions—one through working from a very young age and determining that he wished to establish his own business, and another through the academic and university spin-out route. We should be pushing and highlighting that route, particularly to those who are developing some of the excellent research in our universities, and we should show how such research can lead to business opportunities in the future.
See more at: www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=9987&i=91682&c=1834085#sthash.RLtumqbi.dpuf