Ladies and Gentlemen I think we really owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Fred Macaulay for again doing his wonderful routine. We wouldn’t know what to do without marvellous people like him and marvellous people like you.. And the great thing is even though I’m only here for a very short time it provides me with an opportunity, above all else, to express to all of you just how incredibly grateful I am for the immense amount of time and effort that all of you I know give to helping so many of these young entrepreneurs setting up their enterprises for the first time.
I think there are something like 200 of you volunteers here. I know there are another 400 in the rest of Scotland and we are unbelievably lucky to have so many of you prepared to do this. Now that it’s the 20th anniversary of the start of PSYBT, as I look back I remember how difficult it was in those days to set up something like this.
I remember going around different parts of the country in those days desperately trying to recruit advisers and mentors and helpers from all sorts of different sectors, whether it was marketing people or bankers or businessmen or accountants. And bit by bit we put together a team of people, which now if you look at it, is in the region of six or seven thousand people in the UK. That represents, as you know better than I, an enormous sort of in-kind assistance without which we would never have been able to do all this. We couldn’t pay for the range of skills you represent and I hope you know how important you are. Apart from anything else we could have quite easily started a scheme giving out grants or loans to help people start businesses, But the secret is that advice element, which is absolutely crucial, as so many of the entrepreneurs have told me year after year and time after time. And going round the PSYBT offices yesterday in Glasgow, what was so encouraging was to learn of the way in which the Trust is able to provide that kind of flexibility in approach, now during the recession where everything is not easy by any means. This flexibility means that interest payments can be delayed, a more understanding attitude can be taken by the Trust, and in my experience, for what it is worth, I think people appreciate and will never forget the way in which they were treated when things were most difficult. And that of course, would stand the trust in even better stead for the future.
And one of the great things, I think, about what has been achieved in Scotland, for instance, is such a high quality operation. I have never forgotten, when I think it was Tom Hunter who wrote an article in the newspaper about two years ago in which he said that why don’t they just give all the money to PSYBT and tell them to get on with it. If that isn’t an example, Ladies and Gentlemen of how successful, brilliantly successful, PSYBT has been in Scotland and as a result of the way it’s been run in Scotland and as a result of all your contributions, I don’t know what else is. It has achieved a high reputation and I know Scottish Enterprise also think the same. And so now, PSYBT is responsible for something like 7 per cent of new business start ups within Scotland each year and that I think is a remarkable achievement.
Funnily enough, in Wales, it used to be 11 per cent of all business start ups until regrettably can you believe this two of three years ago we had to shut down the whole operation and say goodbye after 20 years to all our volunteer network because of changes in the way the funding system was operating and now thanks to a donor who appeared and has produced £ 1 million pounds we have been able to start it up again in Wales. But you have kept it going here which is the wonderful thing.
If I may say so, one of the great things which has given me such encouragement is that what I hoped for at the beginning was that by investing in all these young people with their talent and enterprise we would end up with a lot them wanting to come back at a later stage and give something back, which indeed is now happening, and for instance 36 people have joined the alumni scheme and given £45,000 to date – and that is over the last two years. 80 – 100 of our alumni have supported the Trust by acting as regional Ambassadors, as panel members after care supporters, year on year.
I met several of them out there just now. And of course we all know Michelle Mone who of course has been so successful over all these years. I think I have known her since she was about that size but she has created I think the most incredibly successful business which is now known all over the world. She even appears on “The Apprentice”. She is a great example of what can be achieved, and is a great Ambassador not only for the Trust but also for Scotland.
And this, as you can imagine, gives me, again for what it is worth, enormous reward after all these years, and so I hope, that at the end of the day, when I eventually shuffle off this mortal coil, which may be sooner than you think, with any luck we shall leave behind a whole lot of people who will want to continue this entire exercise into the future so that more and more talented young people have a real opportunity.
What gives me again, such pleasure is finding some of the businesses we started on the doorstep for instance, at Ballater. There is a wonderful joiner there who I go and pop in to visit every now and then, who started off with the Trust. It is one very good way I have of finding out what is going on, by asking about his business and the difficulty he has in finding apprentices who will stick to the task.
But wherever you go, I am always so intrigued by whoever you talk to, they all tell you different things about how to manage during this current recession. Some are doing remarkably well, others are not doing so well. But your advice and help, and experience, is absolutely fundamental and crucial. And the fact that you are prepared to give up your time, and devote so much of it to keeping people out of the worst horrors and elephant traps, which I know I would fall into regularly, is quite remarkable. I hope you can go on, occasionally to recruit others, to encourage them to think that it is not as bad as they might perhaps at first think.
I just wanted on this occasion, more than anything else, to express my warmest appreciation of your efforts - so many of these efforts are unsung, unheard. So many of the good things that people do are ignored and forgotten, when in fact I know just how many marvellous and generous things are done behind the scenes on which we all rely.
So thank you for all the time you spend, and the difference, more than anything else, you make to so many people’s lives.
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.