Reply to Michael Moore MP's toast to 'The Scottish Borders and its Industry'
Past Deacons, Members, Distinguished Guests, my week started out shakily; the first email I opened on Monday morning was from David Parker’s office letting me know that unfortunately he would be unable to make this evening’s dinner. In the event industry there are two sayings – expect the unexpected – and – whatever can go wrong will go wrong. I’ve had my fair share of the unexpected over the years. One that springs to mind is the fourteen 40ft trucks that left London for Lisbon and for some inexplicable reason one of the drivers pulled over somewhere in France, unhooked the trailer and then drove off in his cab never to be seen again. Anxious hours ensued. Monday morning started out as one of those days.
So my thanks to Michael Moore MP for stepping in at the eleventh hour cannot be more genuine. David’s absence tonight is disappointing on a number of levels not least because last year he said to me that he had been a top table guest at many of our Corporation dinners but had never been invited to speak; so I was rather looking forward to hearing him sing for his supper.
As many of you will know Michael has given the toast to “The Scottish Borders and its Industry” before. The last time, was just after worried savers began forming queues outside branches of Northern Rock. By this time last year, financial commentators were agreeing that Britain was in recession. Just under a week ago we were poised to see Britain emerge from the longest downturn since the Second World War, if only in technical terms – but the current latest official figures revealed that we have not followed the Eurozone, US and Canada into recovery.
Scotland’s manufactured exports have slumped to their lowest level since 1995 with textiles being one of the worst hit sectors. At a national level the manufacturing sector has been in continuous decline for almost two years with output falling by almost 15 per cent over the period, as has the building trade. This decline has been felt acutely at a local level with the closing of textile factories and the shedding jobs.
While times are clearly tough, it’s important to recognize that there are opportunities for the future for our traditional sectors, particularly in terms of how they can work in conjunction with other sectors, for example tourism.
The service sector has gradually become more a part of our economy and this is reflected in the Corporation’s membership. With commentators suggesting that it is the service sector that will take the country into recovery, our aspirations for the future growth of the Borders economy have to take into consideration how we can secure the right infrastructure to facilitate the conditions for growth and create high value opportunities. Both the private and public sectors are rising to this challenge.
Scottish Borders Council’s Creative Clusters Project has set out to develop the South of Scotland’s position as a key business and trading location for creative rural industries. Private sector activity has taken a leaf out of the Cashmere Club’s book; a group of competing businesses offering design, web development and marketing services have been in discussions about how best to develop the reputation of the region as a creative ‘hub’.
I don’t profess to be well read in the field of economics; however earlier this week I was reading an article that offered 10 tips for surviving the recession and it occurred to me that I do have something valuable to offer on this subject. The first tip was cash flow management. Yes, of course. The second was cost cutting. Again, I agree reviewing expenditure to see where any saving can be made is a good plan. And then I immediately flicked back to the by-line - because along with turning the lights off at the end of the day, suggestions included cutting your marketing budget!
In tough times, marketing budgets are always the first to go. Often there is little choice in the matter. But those that do so dramatically will have to face the reality that they may well lose market share and have greater ground to make up as the economy recovers. Bill Gates once famously said that if he was down to his last dollar he would spend it on marketing. Even looking back to the 30s, the importance of marketing through the tough times is highlighted when you look at Moxie, the leading drinks brand of the time. They felt that it would be in poor taste to advertise during the depression; Coca Cola had no such misgivings and the rest is history. Perhaps the better advice is - if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to formulate your marketing plan because what businesses do now will give them the best chance of emerging from the downturn in a strong position to win business.
I have touched on the growing number of service based members, so in contrast, I am delighted that one of our guests on the top table this evening is Pat Dorward. Pat was Deacon of the Corporation in 1960. His grandfather started out weaving and spinning, changing at the turn of the century to making clothes. A clothes designer for 30 years Pat later became Chairman of J&JC Dorward trading under the name Galaforest. Pat was also chair of the Scottish Clothing Manufacturers’ Association. His continuing support of the Corporation shows that while its evolution is natural and perhaps necessary, now in its 233rd year, the Corporation has an enduring quality and it will continue to nod towards the textiles and woolen trade.
And on to my report for the year. At the Corporation’s AGM held earlier today I am pleased to report that Deacon Elect Gordon Brown was duly appointed Deacon for 2010. My very best wishes to Gordon who I am sure with the help of his able Boxmaster Hilary Buchan will do a sterling job.
It is part of the Deacon’s role to propose the Deacon Elect. I am delighted to announce that the Deacon Elect for 2010 is a Galashiels man, born in the town and educated at Galashiels Academy. He is now the senior partner of a firm of solicitors that can trace its origins back to 1823. The company’s history is linked to the Corporation through the many textile manufacturers it has represented both during good and bad times. I am of course talking about William Windram of Pike and Chapman.
My official year commenced with the Deaconess’ Cocktail Party in May, held with kind permission of Alistair and Eileen Buchan at Hoebridge House.
This was followed the next day by the Golf Challenge between Past Deacons and the Deacon’s Select. I should at this point pass my thanks to Gordon Brown for selecting the Deacon’s team on my behalf, but seeing as the team lost…
The annual cricket match was unfortunately postponed due to unforeseen circumstances, but we can look forward to Jerry Brett captaining the Corporation’s side to glory over the Yorkshire manufacturers next year.
Other sporting events included Tennis and Croquet, kindly hosted by Michael and Debi Crawford – now in its second year this can be considered a new tradition. The Annual Golf tournament was held at Peebles Golf Club on 25th September. It was a closely fought competition with Andy Simpson of Sykes and Craig Jardine of Shorts both finishing on 37 points, with Andy taking the cup on his better inward half.
And this year’s Annual Michaelmas Ball will be held on Friday 27th November and will return to the familiar surroundings of the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel.
Finally, I am also pleased to announce that through our ongoing relationship with The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust, the Corporation will award a bursary to Robert Clifford, a young furniture maker based in Selkirk.
Before I conclude this reply, I would like to thank my Boxmaster Paula Ogilvie and the altogether lovely Deaconness for all their help and support. Jerry Brett was not present at last year’s AGM so I took that as an opportunity to propose him for the role of Sports Convener. My thanks to Jerry, who lightened my load, and did an excellent job delivering our sporting programme.
Michael in reply to your insightful toast the consensus among economists is that the level of output seen last spring will not be seen again before 2012 so it would seem that there remains a long hard slog for the region’s businesses. It is very good to know that our interests are represented at Westminster.
Sarah Mathieson, Vantage, 30 October 2009