In July I thoroughly enjoyed my first Basel Tattoo, a splendid event which mixes the best of Swiss hospitality and entertainment and Scottish culture and tradition. I was pleased to be in Basel for a business event with Scottish Development International, the Scottish government’s economic development agency. The British Embassy in Berne has supported Scottish Development International in the creation of at least 700 jobs over the last three years, as well as supporting best practice exchange between the Swiss and Scottish tourist industries – prominent and successful sectors in both places.
There are strong links between Scotland and Switzerland, and as we celebrate Scotland’s national day today, anyone passing the British Embassy will notice a subtle change. Alongside the red, white and blue of the Union Flag, there will be a second flag, a simple blue field with a bold white cross running from its corners. It is the Saltire: the cross of St Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland, whose feast night is marked by Scots across the world.
Today, we celebrate the best of Scotland, and all that this land and its people have contributed to the world. Its history and heritage: a country rich in culture, creativity and commerce; home to some of the most breath-taking scenery imaginable.
2014 was also the year that the United Kingdom demonstrated that values aren’t just something we talk about abroad - we live by them at home. In a defining moment in British history, and by a decisive majority, the people of Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, one of the most durable and successful political unions ever seen.
In a world where separatism all too often leads to conflict, the Scottish referendum demonstrated Britain’s confidence in her own democratic institutions and processes.
A free and open debate electrified the nation; a peaceful, lawful and democratic vote drew admiration from around the world; and, with a record turnout, the settled will of the Scottish people was determined. In the many conversations I had with Swiss friends and acquaintances, I was struck by the high level of interest in both the process and the result.
St Andrews Day is an ideal time to think about the impact Scots and Scotland have had on the world. Scottish author Ian Fleming created James Bond – the world’s most famous Scottish-Swiss fictional hero!
Scotland today has a huge amount to offer, whether you are a tourist, a student or looking to do business. This year looks like being a record year for tourism, but in a usual year, 20 million people can be expected to visit Scotland, four times more than the entire Scottish population. I am one of those who cannot resist going back to see Scotland’s cosmopolitan cities; the biggest arts festival in the world; stunning rural scenery, and truly historic castles and other sites. And to enjoy the fantastic local food and drink!
40,000 overseas students come every year to seek an education fit for a King. It was, after all, at one of Scotland’s world-class universities, St Andrews, that His Royal Highness Prince William studied and where he met his future wife.
This academic excellence helps to continue Scotland’s proud tradition of innovation. Scotland is a top UK location for research & development and foreign direct investment, as well as a natural partner for Switzerland’s own highly innovative companies in areas such as life sciences and biotechnology. Many people know about Scotland’s successful oil and gas industry. But Edinburgh is also Europe’s fifth largest financial centre!
This St Andrews Day, join me in taking another look at Scotland.
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Britain's ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein