Jane Morrison-Ross: The time is now for a second Scottish Enlightenment

Published:  20 April 2022

As part of the CivTech Demo Day events, South of Scotland Enterprise Chief Executive, Jane Morrison-Ross, discussed the opportunity Scotland currently has to be ambitious, innovative and collaborative to ultimately work towards a second ‘Scottish Enlightenment’.

Respair means the return of hope after a period of despair, to look ahead with hope to the future - and that is what we have the opportunity to do now, (and in fact have earned the right to do) – to look at the future with real optimism and ambition.

At SOSE, our focus is on the wellbeing of our communities, economy and our environment – it’s people, prosperity and planet. We can’t do that in isolation, we need to collaborate, we need people, partnerships and access to innovation and expertise.

Why a 2nd Scottish enlightenment? The first one had effects that were felt far, far beyond Scotland – and that was in an age with no easy international communications. Think what we can do now. We can drive positive economic growth, and show the world that Scotland is a force to be reckoned with.

We can build on the amazing foundations we have - from education to our entrepreneurial networks and our amazing diaspora. We can work with institutions like Civtech, and our innovation centres, and build on that ambition you can see across the Scottish Public sector to be bold, to be different and to create real transformational change.

We can draw ideas and influence from all over the world and add the flavour of Scotland. We are a nation of entrepreneurs, a crofter IS the prime example of an entrepreneur driven by necessity – a farmer, a producer, an innovator, a natural capital specialist. That is entrepreneurial behaviour in action in everyday life, we need to harness that.

Just as in the 1700s we can bring together all the elements that we have in Scotland now – to collaborate cross sector, cross industry, across the public and private sector.

Before the first enlightenment Scotland was considered a backwater, one of the poorest and most backward countries in Europe, the first enlightenment transformed that perspective. It demonstrated to the world what Scotland could offer, a small country that punched well above its weight. A small country with real clout! It’s time to reclaim that title.

Now we are famous the world over for the inventions we have brought to the world. We have the desire to be different, to drive national innovation to make this relevant from Shetland to Stranraer, from Durness to Drummore.

Civtech brings together public and private sector, creates opportunities to change and grow our economy, communities and environment. It looks at challenge from a 360 perspective, turns it on its head and calls it an opportunity.

I want to be in a position it’s a given that we have incredible, innovative outward looking industries in the South of Scotland, and are leading the way on Fair Work and Net Zero making the South of Scotland an even more attractive place to live, work and learn.

I want people to recognise the ambition of the South of Scotland, and SOSE’s ambition to deliver on that. We are working with partners who bring brilliant skills, innovative thinking, and real expertise to help us turn them on their head and make them opportunities.

That’s why we are part of the Civtech family. Through working with Civtech and partners we have seen a new company founded in the South, directly from a challenge, we have new solutions to critical problems, new inward investment opportunities, new collaborations and access to innovation.

We see real power in genuine collaboration and partnership. We need to put our trust in each other to make change happen.

Scotland is the perfect size to move quickly, transform at pace and build that reputation and brand as the collaborative country, the land of innovation, the spark that started the second Scottish enlightenment.

It’s time to turn the work of Adam Smith on its head and move from his focus on ‘self-interest’ in “Wealth of Nations” to our new approach of the “Wellbeing of Nations’.