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06 December 2003
The Herald (Letters to the Editor)
Reality of Scottish entrepreneurship

I cannot allow the column by Gavin Don (In the category of best sell-out . . . , December 3) pass without comment. In fact, so baffled am I by Don's interpretation of the Entrepreneurial Exchange's annual dinner and awards that I am compelled to reach for the radio football phone-in rejoinder, 'Caller, were you at the match?' His assertion that entrepreneurs are only lauded or adulated once they have 'sold out' and have 'taken the private plane down to Monaco' is risible.

If Don was, indeed, at our annual awards ceremony - and I must assume that he was - then I can only conclude that he attended with a preconceived notion of the piece which he intended to write and nothing which happened on the night was going to shift him from that view.

Maybe he missed our 20-minute review of the year - presented 'live' in News at Ten style by Sir Trevor McDonald on screens throughout the room. In the course of the review, the efforts of some 41 exchange members who are actively growing Scottish businesses were highlighted and, yes, lauded. Very few, if any, of these individuals come into the 'Monaco private plane' category condemned by your columnist. It is just so wrong to say, as Don did, that the glory and limelight are consistently given to those who sell out.

He refers to the 'individuals on the platform' being famous or respected 'because they had sold their businesses'. What platform? Caller, were you at the match? More seriously, Hall of Fame inductees such as Donald Macdonald and Moir Lockhead and this year's Entrepreneur of the Year, David Milne, founder of Wolfson Microlectronics, and last year's winner, Walter Nimmo, of Inveresk, were recognised by the exchange because they have built and sustained significant entrepreneurial businesses. Sell-out? I don't think so.

Entrepreneurship in Scotland, as elsewhere, is about creating and building businesses. It is not about - as Don derogatively terms it - selling-out. Lack of space prevents me from providing a comprehensive list of more than 400 exchange members who head up companies employing more than 90,000 people and with a collective turnover of over (pounds) 6.2bn. They are not on the plane to Monaco and nor are they sitting in darkened rooms counting their 'sell-out' cash. They are here in Scotland, building the businesses which they have created, and contributing significantly to the Scottish economy.

I must say, too, that even those high-profile entrepreneurs and exchange members who have been fortunate enough to realise the results of their labours have in the vast majority continued to support Scottish businesses and, each in his or her own way, take pride and pleasure in helping and encouraging fellow entrepreneurs.

That, sir, is the reality of Scottish entrepreneurship. Gavin Don's ill-considered, and plainly wrong, comments do our members and the broader entrepreneurial community in Scotland a studied disservice.

John Anderson,

Chief Executive, Entrepreneurial Exchange, Hamilton.



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