2nd Global Ethical Finance Forum was convened by Middle East Global Advisors* in Strategic Partnership with UKIFC and was hosted by RBS on Sept 13-14, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Keith Brown MSP (Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Scottish Government) delivered below keynote speech.
“Thank you Omar [Shaikh, head of Islamic Finance Council, UKIFC] for your kind introduction and for again giving me the opportunity today to speak to such a diverse and distinguished audience.
I am pleased to be able to welcome you all to this, the second Global Ethical Finance Forum, which has returned to Edinburgh following the successful inaugural event held in 2015.
The Scottish Government is proud to support the Global Ethical Finance Forum and to welcome you all to Scotland and to the historic city of Edinburgh.
I am pleased to see that this conference has again drawn together a wide range of distinguished speakers and delegates from across the world, including
- Lord Sheikh, Baron Sheikh of Cornhill
- Jameel Ahmed, Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan; and
- Nurlan Kussainov, CEO of the Astana International Financial Centre [AIFC] Authority
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome in particular the many attendees from the Scottish financial sector including Kirsty Britz, Director of Sustainable Banking at the Royal Bank of Scotland - our hosts for the next two days.
History and looking to future
In the ten years following the global financial crisis there has been something of a re-alignment in attitudes. Among bankers and investment managers and among customers and shareholders.
There has been a recognition that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option and indeed no longer desirable. A recognition that there could, and should, be a practical, economic alternative to established business practices. Interest in establishing an alternative, sustainable, responsible and ethical financial system continues to grow. As does interest in developing a more long-term and responsible form of economic development. Despite the challenges which continue to exist within the financial sector in Scotland, and across the world, the industry remains in a strong position and it is crucial that we continue to rebuild its proud legacy and reputation. There is a growing demand for the financial sector to look to its historic roots in saving, in communities and in sustainable investment and support for businesses. Those roots run deep in Scotland.
I have no doubt that the Reverend Henry Duncan of Dumfriesshire will be referred to more than once over the course of this conference – I make no apologies for doing so at an early stage. The Reverend Duncan founded the first savings bank. A institution intended to be “an economical bank for the savings of the industrious.” This was to be a bank where everyone could benefit regardless of wealth or position and it is a model that continues to prosper across the world today – a model that has had a particular influence on the development of Islamic banking. It is essential that we seek out new opportunities to diversify our financial services industry, so that the industry can continue to prosper and grow.
Sustainable Economic Growth
Over the last 10 years, this Scottish Government has held a view that I hope will resonate with many of you here today – that economic growth is not sufficient in itself.
Instead we are working towards an inclusive economy, where everyone in society is able to benefit from and contribute to economic growth. We want to see that growth spread more evenly across economic sectors and across all parts of our country.
We are encouraging businesses in Scotland to develop and adopt new technologies, new products and new business practices, while at the same time encouraging them to incorporate the principles of fair work.
Scotland is looking to the future. Looking at what kind of country we want Scotland to be and what kind of world we want to live in
I’d like to emphasise this point: boosting sustainable economic growth is front and centre of everything we do as a government. Never has this been more important than now.
An open economy
As a small, open economy in a rapidly changing and globalised world, our ability to create a more productive and fairer Scotland depends more than ever on trading with the rest of the world, and on attracting investment into our economy, our businesses, and our assets.
Our Economic Strategy recognises that strengthening our links with the global economy is key to Scotland’s future economic success. Our Trade and Investment strategy sets out an ambitious agenda of internationalisation, supporting the strong performance that has seen Scotland’s international exports increase by 17% over the last five years.
Scotland’s competitive advantage
Of course, as Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, I cannot stand in front of an audience of international investors without making the case for Scotland as an investable opportunity.
We are a small nation, but one with immense economic potential. We have the most highly qualified working age population anywhere in Europe. We have more world-class universities per head of population than anywhere else in the world except Luxembourg. We have a global reputation in key industries – from food and drink, engineering, informatics, renewable energy and life-sciences to tourism. And our reputation in financial services remains strong – as I’m sure you’ll agree.
We have good quality transport links and excellent digital infrastructure. And – very importantly - we offer a great quality of life. Inward investment is hugely important to our economy. Last year Scotland achieved a record year in terms of securing inward investment projects and was the best performing UK region outside of London. And we have a very supportive public sector. Our universities, enterprise agencies, local government and central government work together to support and encourage business growth.
That’s one of the reasons why Scotland consistently outperforms every part of the UK, outside of London, for attracting inward investment. And in all of our economic development work, one the things we’re determined to do is to ensure that we continue to look outwards – to attract investment from overseas, to attract talent into Scotland, and to promote Scottish exports.
Scotland is, and continues to be, a very attractive and stable place to do business - however, there is no doubt that the EU Referendum outcome presents an enormously significant challenge to our economy – both now and in the future. The challenge Scotland faces because of Brexit only strengthens our resolve to boost Scotland’s performance across global markets.
Scotland will remain an open, dynamic and prosperous economy, as part of being a welcoming, internationalist, outward-looking society
Economic challenges and opportunities
We of course face many of the same challenges as other developed economies across the world. Our productivity levels remain behind those of some of our European counterparts – so we are investing in new technology, key to the productivity improvements that will raise living standards for all.
We are competing in a globalised market place – and are expanding opportunities for our companies to become exporters and develop new markets for their products. We are moving, rapidly, to a low-carbon economy – facing up to a moral obligation to combat climate change and at the same time making our air cleaner and our businesses more efficient. We want to ensure that society as a whole benefits from developments such as automation and the use of big data .
Support for the Scottish Ethical Finance Hub
The Scottish Government is also keen to see Scotland at the centre of the changing financial system.The Scottish Government is proud to continue to support the work of the Scottish Ethical Finance Hub [EFH] established at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh with the support of the Islamic Finance Council [UKIFC] and we have committed funding of up to £150,000 to support the Hub’s activities in promoting the developing the ethical finance sector here in Scotland.
As well as being instrumental in bringing the Global Ethical Finance Forum back to Edinburgh, the UKIFC and the Ethical Finance Hub have been central to some innovative work here in Scotland including hosting the award-winning Edinburgh Ethical Roundtable Series.
The team have also been instrumental in establishing a unique partnership between faith groups here in Scotland to develop alternative financial solutions. That ground-breaking project brings together the Church of Scotland and leading Islamic scholars, and will no doubt be the subject of many conversations over the next two days.
It is heartening to see so many people gathered together with a common desire to make finance work towards a greater good, for the benefit of all. As Adam Smith said in his Wealth of Nations: “No society can be flourishing and happy of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable”
Economic growth must be inclusive, and to the benefit of all in our society - this as true today as it was for Adam Smith. I hope that you find your discussions over the next two days to be challenging, informative and enjoyable. Thank you.”
© Global Business Magazine & News 2017
*Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA) is the gateway connectivity and intelligence platform to opportunities in the rapidly developing economic region that stretches all the way from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East – The Middle East North Africa South Asia (MENASA) connection. Read more at: https://meglobaladvisors.com/