Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands Conservative MSP, today backed calls for more Scottish schools to offer Chinese as a modern language and for a new direct air service to be established between China and Scotland. Jamie was speaking in a debate in the Parliament this lunchtime on enhancing business links between Scotland and China.
Speaking in the debate, Jamie, who is a member of the Parliament’s European & External Affairs Committee which recently produced a report into the Scottish Government’s China Plan, said:
“I am very positive about increasing trade and educational links between Scotland and China, and I recognise the very significant potential economic benefits for Scotland in terms of increased exports, especially of food and drink products like whisky and smoked salmon, and additional tourism income - both of these being so important to my region of the Highlands & Islands. China’s rapidly growing professional classes offer the same kind of opportunities that American markets and visitors have offered Scotland in past decades. I commend the staff of businesses like Marine Harvest, whose processing factory at Fort William I visited earlier this year, who have done so much already to increase our food exports.
“The European & External Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the Scottish Government’s China Plan was widely welcomed and I believe is a very useful report into this subject. The Committee will soon consider the Scottish Government’s response to our report. When taking evidence it was important to hear from business people with direct experience of working in the Chinese market, including those in asset management, a sector (in which) Scotland has a very strong international reputation. I was struck in particular by evidence given by Angus Tulloch, a leading Scottish financier and Joint Managing Partner of the Asia Pacific and Global Emerging Markets Equity Team, First State Investments (UK). Mr Tulloch emphasised the requirement for businesses to find the right partner in China, that relationship building must be viewed as a long term process and that the value of speaking in the language of a country with which trading is desired cannot be understated. I think all of us in this chamber would agree on this latter point and I would be supportive of additional efforts to increase the learning of Mandarin Chinese in Scottish schools, colleges, and universities. Increasing the availability of teachers of Mandarin Chinese is obviously key to this being realised.
“On the issue of a direct flight to China, again we are positive about this concept and recognise that business leaders have argued that a direct air link is of crucial importance to the Chinese view of Scotland and that it could encourage more Chinese firms to recognise the possibilities of using Scotland as a European headquarters. It could also provide a real boost in terms of tourism. I would also highlight that business leaders have also suggested such a link would also have to be low cost enough to rival the available rates for business travel to Europe.”