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Scottish Borders Manufacturers' Corporation

Michaelmas Dinner 2008 - Deacon's reply

Deacons Reply – Michaelmas Dinner 2008

John Swinney
Minister, Past Deacons, Members, Guests,
It is a great honour for the Corporation to have an eminent and leading member of the Scottish Government here to speak at our dinner. I would like to thank the Cabinet Secretary for his toast to the Scottish Borders & its industry.
It is refreshing to hear the views of someone at the heart of Government who is instrumental in forming and implementing policy. Minister, we appreciate you taking time out from your busy schedule to be here tonight.

I doubt if there has been a Dinner since Adam Dorward was Deacon in 1930, where the economy and banking system were in such a perilous state.

The recession of the 30s turned into a depression, not because of a failure of economics, but due to the failure of the swift application of effective policy.
However I am confident that our politicians have now acted effectively and will continue to act to alleviate the worst of the recession.

The Scottish Government in Edinburgh must be commended for their positive actions. The joint statement by our First Minister and the Labour Secretary for State for Scotland pledging to put aside party differences in order to stimulate economic activity, demonstrates pragmatism and maturity.

For my industry in particular, the actions announced by the Scottish Government are encouraging. The announcement on Tuesday of measures to speed up the planning system and with it the recognition the expeditious operation of the planning system is needed to support economic development. I sincerely hope that all government agencies, local planning authorities, councils and communities will adhere to the spirit of this guidance.

The Waverley Rail Line
Some may contend that with the slump in housing market that the Raison d’etre for the Borders Rail Line has gone. I would contend that the need is ever greater.

The coming of the railway in 1845 heralded a Golden age in the development of the Borders. I firmly believe that its reintroduction will lead to another.

Its introduction is vital to ensure that this area does not become an economic backwater with the young and dynamic leaving to be replaced by those retiring. Our culture, particularly our beloved Borders rugby would continue to suffer, while the social costs would increase.

The railway would enhance our connectivity with the wider economy and more importantly put us back on the map. The perception of the Borders as a place to do business and live would change. The commitment by the Government to this project is welcome. The aspirational start date “during the current parliament” must be converted into an actual date as uncertainty plays into the hands of the sceptics and luddites of which the Borders has a few.

Alistair Moffat in his book “The Borders” states that the periods of decline in prosperity for the Borders occurred only when the “Border” became a frontier of material difference.

We have much in common with those from the North of England. The growth of our textiles/manufacturing industry was heavily influenced by manufacturers from Yorkshire; they were also responsible for introducing the codified game of Rugby Football.

We request that care is taken when new legislation is promoted by the Government that it is tested to ensure that it will not harden those frontiers to the detriment of the Borders people and their commerce.

Anything that reduces the competitiveness of the Borders through an increased cost base or reduces our ability to attract people with the requisite skills will put us at a disadvantage to those on the other side of the Tweed.

History & Traditions of S.B.M.C
Studying the list of Past Deacons reminds me of the history and tradition of this great corporation. I am mindful of the great honour to be the Deacon of such an august body with its vitality and tradition stretching back to the late 18th century. In these difficult times it is worth recalling the skill, innovativeness and entrepreneurial spirit of the Manufacturers of the past, George Mercer, Archibald Craig, Rev. Dr. David Douglas and two of Scotland’s most famous sons Walter Scott and James Hogg who turned a small cottage industry into a booming industry which put Galashiels and the Borders firmly on the industrial maps of the 19th and 20th century.
Now is the time for us, the business leaders and opinion formers of today to adopt the entrepreneurial spirit displayed by those early members of our Corporation.

Samuel Johnson said “self confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings”, or as Monty Python put it “Always look on the bright side of life”.

Confidence is the key – all economic commentators chant the same mantra. They argue that the UK economy is in better shape to recover than in previous recessions. Slowly the banks are regaining their confidence to lend to each other. However the popular media must give up sensationalising and start to give a more pragmatic and balanced view to events, announcements and statistics.

Perhaps Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand should be commended for getting the trivial back onto the front page!

Deacons Report on Year
At the Corporations AGM held earlier today I am pleased to report that Deacon Elect Sarah Mathieson was duly appointed Deacon for 2009. I would like to wish Sarah all the best and hope she enjoys it as much as I have, and that next year she is able to talk of the remarkable economic recovery of 2009.

Part of the Deacon’s role is to propose the Deacon Elect and I am delighted to announce that the Deacon Elect for 2010 is a young man born and brought up in Galashiels, and as well as running a very successful business, he supports many good causes through his charitable foundation. He won Borders Businessman of the year 2008 and will I am sure make an excellent Deacon. It is my great pleasure to announce Gordon Brown of GB Telecom as your Deacon-Elect for 2010.

My official year began with the award of a grant to Phillipa Haine made through the Princes Youth Business Trust, in order for her to establish a Jewellery Design business.

In May the Deaconess’s Cocktail Party was held with over 200 members and guests attending.
In June the annual Cricket Match against the Yorkshire Manufacturers took place at St Boswells Cricket Club, a very powerful Yorkshire Team wreaked revenge upon us, for our victory last year.

The highlight of the match for Past Box Master Andy Purves was seeing his Deacon, Chief Selector, & Captain Jerry Brett out first ball of the innings, bad luck “Ducky”.

Sadly the golf match had to be cancelled due to the water logged conditions at the Hirsel Golf Club.

A Tennis and Croquet tournament was held at the end of August on the one sunny day of the summer. This again was well attended by member’s families and their guests. It was very successful with Lachlan Munro and Charlie Renton winning a thrilling final.

The finale of this year, is the Michaelmas Ball, which takes place on Friday 28th November in a marquee at Pavilion. The marquee is heated, it will be warm so there is no need for winter woollies. The organising committee have assured me that it is going to be something special and I look forward to seeing you there.

Before I conclude this reply, I would like to thank my Boxmaster, the Deaconess and past Deacon Jerry Brett for all their help, support and organisational skills, without which I would have been unable to perform my duties and run our events.

Minister, thank you for your toast. In reply, if the government at all levels, performs effectively and multilaterally to tackle the economy at the macro level I can assure you that the Scottish Borders and its industry will plan for the future and come through this current crisis well placed to take advantage of the opportunities which the recovery will present.

Minister, past Deacons, guests thank you for your attention, we are fortunate that we live in a beautiful vibrant and thriving place. Let us all work to ensure its continued prosperity.

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Date: 14/01/2009

The Scottish Borders Manufacturers' Corporation