THE Scots are rediscovering Scotland and the country is in line for a series of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
These were the twin messages from the head of national tourism agency, VisitScotland, speaking in the Borders on Friday.
VisitScotland chairman, Dr Mike Cantlay, was the main speaker at the Scottish Borders Manufacturers Corporation annual Michaelmas Dinner, which this year was held at Heriot-Watt University’s Netherdale campus in Galashiels.
Also speaking was Borders sheriff Kevin Drummond and Scotland rugby attack coach Gregor Townsend.
Mr Cantlay’s speech included a number of themes. He started by pointing out that Scots themselves had been remiss in not buying enough Scottish-manufactured goods.
But he said that was now changing: “Scots are discovering Scotland like never before. The ‘Staycation’ effect means that Scots are going to new places, trying new things, and they are enjoying it.
“And they are coming back for more. They’re discovering our wonderful food. Our wonderful culture and entertainment. The wonders of magical parts of the country that they don’t know well – such as the Borders. And they’re discovering the wonderful products we make. Scots buying Scottish is back.”
He then moved onto tourism, which he revealed is now responsible for 270,000 jobs in Scotland, and with a turnover of £11billion is by far the country’s biggest and most important industry.
Dr Cantlay also highlighted the fact that the next few years will see Scottish tourism and business presented with a series of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities he called the ‘Winning Years’.
He said: “And I’m determined to ensure the Borders business community will exploit the ‘Winning Years’ to the full. Never again in our lifetimes will we have the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in the UK to exploit within just two years and we have huge sporting events like the Ryder Cup.
“And the next year of Homecoming in 2014 – the Borders made so much of it last time around in 2009. Then there’s the year of ‘Active Scotland’ this year that Glentress and Peebles has made so much of. ‘Creative Scotland’ next year and ‘Natural Scotland’ in 2013.
“And if all that isn’t enough, the world’s largest entertainment business Disney will launch its movie ‘Brave’ next summer.
Estimated to be five times bigger at the box office than ‘Braveheart’, it’s a Pixar animated movie following the trilogy of ‘Toy Story’, ‘Ratatouille’, ‘Cars’, ‘Finding Nemo’ and starring Scotland’s greatest acting talents – Billy Connolly, Kelly MacDonald, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson.
“It’s a magical fairytale set in rugged mystical Scotland and it launches in 72 countries world-wide next summer and, of course, the hunt is on to see which Borders textile company will be making the ‘Brave’ tartan.”
Dr Cantlay says it was a Borderer in the shape of Sir Walter Scott who initiated the concept of modern tourism in Scotland with his 1810 publication of ‘The Lady of the Lake’.
“It’s now the world’s biggest industry and Scotland has been leading the world for 200 years – and Scotland has all the opportunities to lead global tourism for the next 200 years.”
Dr Cantlay said it was an absolute pleasure to offer a toast to ‘The Scottish Borders and its Industry’.
“But it’s a toast to the future not the past. And a toast to a world that I believe needs a good deal more Scotland,” he added.
Corporation deacon for 2011, William Windram, gave the reply to Dr Cantlay’s toast.
The next speaker was Sheriff Kevin Drummond, who addressed the company on ‘Border Life’.
He told the assembled guests he felt that when people speak of the environment, it can mean many different things and he was concerned the word itself was in danger of losing its true meaning.
“Some people talk about it as if it is just the view – despite the fact that the words of the song may have to change to the ‘Rolling Windmills of the Borders’,” he said.
The sheriff added: “Sometimes you need to have been away and return with refreshed eyes to appreciate all that we have here.
“The environment is the whole package; it is the whole way of life; it includes the people and the communities; it includes the businesses which sustain those communities and you, the manufacturers and business people, are as much part of the environment as the landscape itself.
“You are not somehow separate from the environment.
“Your efforts maintain the prosperity of our communities in good times and in bad and in this respect we in the Borders are blessed with lively, occasionally struggling, living and distinct communities.
“I doubt if there is any other single part of the country where so many distinct and separate communities proudly assert their individual identities so vigorously as in the Borders.
“We are, of course, blessed too with the surroundings in which we carry on our businesses and our lives.”
The reply came from Mr Townsend, who won 82 caps for Scotland plus two test caps for the victorious series-winning British Lions side that toured South Africa in 1997.
After leaving Gala in 1993, he went on to enjoy a professional career that included stints at Northampton, Borders Reivers, three French clubs and South Africa’s Natal Sharks.
Scotland’s attack coach under Andy Robinson for the past two years, he spoke about his rugby experiences, incuding his time in France and about rugby in New Zealand, which has just finished hosting the sport’s World Cup.
Deacon Windram said the near-90 guests had enjoyed a very convivial evening.
“It was very enjoyable with plenty of food for thought from our various speakers. This was also the first time the event had been held at the university and it went very well,” he told TheSouthern.