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24 August 2006

‘It’s Scotland’s oil’ does the business for the Dragons’ Den team

by ROBBIE DINWOODIE, the Herald

The SNP won an unexpected "election" victory yesterday after MSPs were put under a Dragons' Den-style cross-examination of their policies at the Scottish Parliament.

The format was that of the BBC's Dragons' Den programme — four hard-nosed entrepreneurs passing hard judgment on a pitch — but it was a welcome surprise for the SNP when all four bought into the plan for an independent Scotland put to them by Jim Mather.

He was up against fellow MSPs Christine May for Labour, Murdo Fraser of the Scots Tories, Jamie Stone of the LibDems and Shona Baird for the Greens.

Not only did all the business experts back his view about how Scotland could flourish as an independent country, so too did most of the audience at the Festival of Politics in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Mather, an entrepreneur before becoming an MSP, clearly spoke the language expected of the Dragons' Den team. Hosted by Evan Davis, presenter of the BBC2 programme, five MSPs had to pitch their vision for the best way to encourage entrepreneurs to invest in the country.

Rachel Elnaugh, founder of Red Letter Days, was joined by Dundee business woman Amanda Boyle, entrepreneur Chris Gorman OBE, and Edinburgh chef and restaurant owner Tony Singh. In the style of the show, the panel made the politicians answer tough questions after giving their brief presentations.

Christine May pointed to Labour policies such as improved business education, manufacturing output and funding opportunities.

Deputy Tory leader Murdo Fraser said he would invest in transport infrastructure, change public sector procurement rules and lower business rates to make Scotland more attractive to business.

For the LibDems, Jamie Stone said Scotland had the potential to become the "Saudi Arabia" of renewable energy, while the Greens' Shona Baird said money could be made from using waste materials as well as wind and wave power to create energy. But Mr Mather spoke of using Scotland's oil wealth to create a better business environment and to improve life expectancy in a bid to increase the country's wealth.

Mr Gorman said: "In business you have to be apolitical and I just looked at who was pitching me the best story and it was Jim."
Categories [Enterprise and Lifelong Learning]
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