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04 July 2004
Sunday Times
Scots head for eastern bloc

Scottish Week aims to build on an old trading link with Estonia 
SCOTLAND will showcase its wares in eastern Europe next week with an inaugural seven-day event in Estonia. Scottish Week has been co-funded by the Scottish executive to revive trading links that began in the 14th century and share knowledge about selling to different European countries.

Iain Lawson, the pest control entrepreneur and honorary consul in Scotland for Estonia, sees “enormous” potential and has organised the event with the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Scottish Enterprise Renfrewshire and directors of The Entrepreneurial Exchange
“The mistake a lot of people make is that it’s only a nation of 1.4m people, but it’s a good centre to trade right across Scandinavia, the eastern bloc countries and Russia as well. Estonia is strong where we’re weak in the eastern bloc, while we’re strong in existing EU markets like France and Germany,” says Lawson.

Estonia exports £2.7 billion a year to the UK, including timber, chemicals and food, and is growing its GDP by about 5% a year. Foreign and domestic companies have the same rights and enjoy 0% corporation tax on reinvested profits.

Meelis Atonen, the economic minister, and Elspeth Hough, the executive’s EU enlargement officer, will be among delegates at the event, which includes a two-day trade exhibition and business briefings.

Mike Rutterford, the angel investor, is sailing his 78-ft yacht, kitted with a 30-ft lion rampant flag, from Helsinki to Tallinn this week to host a VIP reception for Scottish Week next Saturday night. “My grandfather was a sea captain in the first world war and into the second world war and his ship traded a lot with the Baltic countries because so much of our commerce at that time looked east. This is a great opportunity for Scots to get out from our little shell and be traders like we were 200 years ago,” says Rutterford.

The Isle of Skye Brewery, which exports Scottish bottled beers including Black Cuillin, a dark ale flavoured with rolled roast oats and Scottish heather honey, is joining the event to meet an Estonian import agent.

Angus MacRuary, the founder of the brewery founder, says: “We’ve found a good market for our style of beers around Scandinavia and the Baltic states, and Estonia has always been on our list of places to go.”

John McGlynn, the founder of £25m property and car parking group Airlink, now has European investments including ePark, the Tallinn maker of mobile parking payment software, and Jobs in Britain, a recruitment agency that specialises in bringing eastern European workers to the UK.

McGlynn says: “My experience of the Estonian national character is that it’s a nation of people who are very advanced technologically and they use that to get things done. It’s a small country but a great pilot study for exporting to Europe.”

Other organisations taking part include freight company Denholm-Bahr, tourism software designer Clearfuse, ScotNursing and Fife College. Scottish Week runs from July 7-14

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