Reform Scotland

The Next Start-up Nation?

Academic says Scotland needs major rethink if it is to compete in global start-up race

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-partisan think tank, today releases a paper called ‘The Next Start-Up Nation? – A manifesto for an Independent, Entrepreneurial and Ambitious Scotland‘, written by Ross Brown, Professor in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Finance at the School of Management, University of St Andrews. 

Professor Brown writes that Scotland has an uneasy relationship with entrepreneurialism, and that this has to change. If Scotland became independent, its economy would be heavily reliant on innovation and would require a culture that celebrates entrepreneurs, as well as better funding and support for start-ups.

Among Professor Brown’s recommendations are: 

  • The scrapping of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and their replacement with a new set of institutions focused on supporting high-growth ventures.
  • Abolition of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisors, who are “academic economists who simply don’t understand how businesses function and operate”. This should be replaced with a National Entrepreneurship Council composed of successful entrepreneurs, investors, financial institutions, key business angels, and entrepreneurship policy experts.  
  • Copying Israel’s “strategic and sophisticated” government intervention which has shaped shaping the massive growth and success of that country’s high-tech sector.
  • Making it easier for innovators to access growth capital and advice in order to scale up their businesses.
  • The targeting of women, immigrants and people with disabilities to unleash hidden entrepreneurial power in the economy.

Entrepreneurial activity plays a pivotal role in shaping the economic success of countries, yet Scotland’s recent entrepreneurial history is one of significant underperformance.

“If Scotland is to thrive as an independent country, not least as an independent country finding its feet during the Covid pandemic recovery, it will need to embrace a revolution in entrepreneurialism.

“Ultimately, Scotland can only be transformed into a start-up nation by the entrepreneurs themselves, but government can lay the foundation to create those entrepreneurs.

Professor Ross Brown

“What Professor Brown proposes is nothing less than a revolution in the way Scotland views and supports its entrepreneurs. In a competitive global economy, these are the people that can make the difference for Scotland, that create the jobs and pay the taxes that support our public services, and they deserve better support than they currently get.

“Our political culture needs to grow up and start appreciating the vital importance of the private sector in everything from fighting climate change to reforming the NHS and schools to providing the jobs that attract smart immigrants to our shores.

“While some of the measures proposed in this paper would help an independent Scotland finds its economic mojo, many of them could be adopted now by the devolved government. We might ask the First Minister: what are you waiting for?”

Chris Deerin, Director, Reform Scotland