Ladies and Gentlemen, I must say I am very glad indeed to have this opportunity of joining you this evening for this splendid occasion and I just wanted to take the opportunity above all else to congratulate all the award winners who I know put so much effort and enthusiasm into what they do on behalf of Scottish Business in the Community because their contribution is really vital and I do hope it’s been a little bit of encouragement for them this evening. The other thing I have a feeling, I don’t know, I think we have got off lightly this evening with Alastair McGowan, I wasn’t quite sure what on earth he was going to do before I started speaking. In fact, I was rather relying on him to give me something to grip on to, if you know what I mean, in terms of the sort of nightmare I was going to receive. But anyway there we are. No doubt he’ll get his own back shortly.
But I just wanted to say 27 years ago, for some reason or other, I was asked to become President of Business in the Community, I don’t quite know why, anyway they may have regretted it because I am still here 27 years later and they seem to be finding it rather difficult to get rid of me. But at the time, 27 years ago, its extraordinary to think that there wasn’t really very much interest in those days in corporate social responsibility, there was something that Hector Laing started called the 1% Club, and there were a few hardy souls who saw the point in those days. But what is so remarkable, I think, is how this whole effort on CSR has grown and developed in those last 30 years. And Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening is an opportunity, for me, if nothing else, and for what it’s worth, just to express gratitude for the fact that so many of you are here this evening, so many of you have seen the point of corporate social responsibility, every conceivable direction and have made such a difference to so many people’s lives, at an individual level, but also at a community level. And I just wanted to express the greatest possible appreciation for your involvement, because I do realise just how many other things you are doing all the time, and the amount effort involved, all the difficulties of dealing with shareholders and the media one minute and goodness knows who else the next, so the fact is you are prepared to go the extra mile, in the way you do, and support what Business in the Community is trying to achieve, all over Scotland, in so many different communities, is truly remarkable. So that was one thing.
The other thing is, I hope, that you also have realised just what a difference all your employees can make, through employee volunteering for instance. Today, earlier this afternoon, I was at Craigroyston School, in a particularly difficult part of Edinburgh, that school had a remarkable head teacher and many other teachers who she involves in the process. But I was so impressed by the fact that Scottish Business in Community has been concentrating on that school in order to help raise self esteem, self confidence, employability - all the other basic skills that are needed for so many young people - at a time when, as you know, youth unemployment is particularly high, and that mentoring that is done by the business community, who are prepared to put in their time, just to sit with young people on the literary and numeracy side, developing interview skills, all these other things which make a difference to their future, I promise you, is a remarkable contribution to those young peoples’ future. Just an hour a week, or whatever, from an employee can make a fantastic difference. One of the things I have also been trying to encourage in the last year or two, is the incredible power that business can have with management skills and everything else but also with secondees from business who can make a terrific difference to the opportunities that communities can have to overcome endless complications and challenges with red tape and all sorts of others things they want to try and achieve in their communities. Again business can help to provide those essential skills, and so we now have more and more secondees from business, we call them business connectors, who can make a fantastic difference. So, ladies and gentlemen, I just wanted to reassure you that your role is absolutely crucial because you can help create a more integrated approach to solving so many difficult issues, that otherwise don’t get solved at the community level. And, again, I know the challenges are enormous, but your role has made this difference in so many different initiatives all over Scotland. I am not going to go into them now, but I just wanted to express my deepest appreciation, also to Jane Wood, Brendan Dick, all those people who have helped within the Business in the Community Head Office, to make all this happen, it doesn’t happen by accident. And the fact you are all here this evening to join in this 30th Anniversary celebration is I think a great tribute to what Business in the Community is able to do to create the partnerships that are really needed between the public, the private and the NGO sector. 30 years ago it didn’t really happen, now it does, thanks to all of you. So thank you ladies and gentlemen for all your commitment.
Thank you also to Ambassador Frank Blin, who has agreed to take on, for two years, the role of ambassador and to Sue Bruce, who has been my ambassador for the last two years, and again has made an extraordinary difference. Without these ambassadors again very little would be achieved so here is the opportunity to give Frank his special award for ambassador.