The textile industry and further education in the Borders must continue to be an attractive option for students post Brexit.
That’s according to the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who paid a visit to Heriot Watt University’s Galashiels campus yesterday.
He said he will fight to keep Scottish universities as a popular study place for foreign students after the UK leaves the European Union.
Around one third of Heriot Watt University’s 9,000 students come from countries outside the UK.
Mr Hunt said: “We have to demonstrate to all our universities that the Brexit we end up with is a Brexit that is going to be positive for higher education in the UK and the reason for that is it is one of our most important and most successful industries.
“One of the reasons I am here is because when I go around the world and I talk about the great prospects Britain has. I talk about our universities.
“Last week we had rankings that showed that we have four of the world’s top ten universities and a number of Scottish universities are very high up that list of global rankings.
“I have seen fantastic creativity here at Heriot Watt campus.
“I understand there’s uncertainty, but what has powered our universities has been the fact they are so attractive for students all over the world. That is what we want to continue.”
Mr Hunt met with textile and design students, at the Edinburgh-based univesity’s in High Mill building at Netherdale, and praised the region’s creativity in keeping the textile industry alive.
He said: “There are changes happening in all industries.
“We’re on the cusp of the fourth industrial revelation and in textiles, as with other industries, we are in the process of a huge digitisation which means that lots of things are done online, through 3D printing.
“All of these things have a big impact, but the one thing that computers and technology can’t substitute for is creativity.
“And what we have in this country is extraordinary creativity.
“We have always had it. It has always been one of our great gifts and indeed it is one of Scotland’s great gifts.”
Borders MP John Lamont, who accompanied Mr Hunt on his visit, added: “I am pleased that the foreign secretary was able to pay a visit to Galashiels to see for himself the great facilities Heriot Watt University has in the Borders.
“Textiles and design have an important heritage in the Borders but they also represent a great export opportunity for the United Kingdom as we leave the EU and develop links with other markets.
“The foreign secretary was extremely impressed with what he saw and had a useful discussion with staff and students about the future of the sector.”
The pair later visited Borders Conservative activists in Gattonside to discuss the importance of bringing the country together after Brexit and the division that referendums can cause.
South of Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne, who met them there, said: “It’s great that the foreign secretary has taken the time to visit the Borders.
“These regular visits from members of the cabinet and senior ministers show how important Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom really is.
“His insightful reflections on Brexit revealed how important it is that we come together to heal the divisions caused by referendums in Scotland.”