Why Scotland has a wealth of public sector opportunity on its doorstep

Mon 07 Mar, 2011

Guardian.co.uk | Mike Shiel

In light of the strain on public finances, the private sector in Scotland is under pressure to ensure that a private sector-led recovery succeeds.

The squeeze on public spending and the fundamental need to maintain citizen satisfaction and security has initiated a process of transformation in the public sector to ensure these services are fit for Scotland in the 21st century and that the investment is maximised.

Investment in Scotland's small business sector is creating a wealth of opportunity for the public sector by nurturing new and innovative technologies. It is now widely recognised that technology can and will play a crucial role in helping to boost services to the public. The Scottish government has put this at the heart of its procurement reform.

Strathclyde police, Scotland's largest police force is one example of how public services can be dramatically improved through the use of technology. Officers are using mobile services from a small Scottish company called Argyll, within the domestic violence and victim support unit.

This innovation gives repeat victims satellite-enabled devices which can alert police to an attack, track the victim's location and allow officers to listen remotely to a person in danger. This is a compelling example of where technologies are being put to work to provide real value to the public. It is also great testament to the technology innovation coming out of Scotland.

Investment is a key driver of innovation and the support that organisations like Scottish Development International (SDI) are giving to agile startups based in Scotland is already bearing fruit.

Given the recent turbulent financial picture globally, the economic framework and financial support are firmly in place to ensure Scotland is at the forefront of innovation and seen as an attractive location for high-quality inward investment. It's up to 30% more economical to set up and run a facility in Scotland than in other parts of the UK, making it one of the most cost-effective locations to position a startup venture.

Attractive wage rates and favourable labour flexibility compared to other western European locations is also a draw for entrepreneurs. Scotland has also cultivated a prestigious education system that continues to incubate a pool of highly skilled workers with a wealth of management talent and engineering expertise, making it a perfect location for technology-focused companies.

Scotland has a history that is rich in engineering and innovation, and today we're continuing to drive our inherent capacity for inventions that benefit society.

The Scottish government's objective is to focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, allowing opportunities to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth. I believe that through continuous investment in the private sector, the public sector will profit, not only economically, but by having services that are at the forefront of innovation and benefitting citizens for years to come.

With the macro-economic framework in place to foster a healthy environment for small businesses, now is the time to focus on entrepreneurship in Scotland.

Mike Shiel is international senior manager for creative industries, ICT and enabling technologies at Scottish Development International.