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9 December 2004

(S2F-1272) Fresh Talent Initiative

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the First Minister what contribution the fresh talent initiative is making to Scotland. (S2F-1272)

The First Minister (Mr Jack McConnell): Fresh talent is a long-term initiative that aims to retain more Scots in Scotland and to attract skilled people from the rest of the United Kingdom and from around the world to come and live and work in Scotland in order to address our population decline. However, I assure Stewart Stevenson that if anyone from London wishes to come and take the job of anybody in Scotland, the fresh talent initiative will not encourage them to do so.

Stewart Stevenson: I am sure that my nephews and nieces who work in England will be extremely grateful to hear that.

Is the First Minister confident that his scheme, which requires fresh talent coming from abroad to stay in Scotland, will deliver that result? When will it start delivering and with what net effect on the Scottish economy?

The First Minister: The fresh talent initiative, which we launched earlier this year, is already delivering. It has delivered a profile for Scotland and for this issue at home and abroad—indeed, it is attracting interest across the world. Our relocation advisory service, which went operational in October but which we have not yet formally marketed, has already—by virtue of being available and accessible through the fresh talent website—received more than 600 inquiries from many countries all over the world.

In fact, the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, who is just back from supporting Scotland's team at the Commonwealth youth games, managed to pick up a fresh talent leaflet in Bendigo, Victoria, during her travels in Australia. The promotion of Scotland is happening throughout the world. People are interested in coming to Scotland because we have some of the best universities and companies in the world. We also have a growing economy with the second-highest employment rate in the European Union. We have fantastic countryside in our national parks and elsewhere and fantastically vibrant cities. That is why Scotland is doing so well and why people want to come and live here.

Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South) (Lab): Does the First Minister believe that the initiative offers the unique opportunity to harness the language skills of native speakers so that Scotland can become a more competitive and dynamic economy? Will he take the opportunity during his meeting this afternoon with the chairman of the British Council, Neil Kinnock, to look at how the Executive could work in partnership with the British Council to progress the agenda to maximise language use and language learning in Scotland?

The First Minister: I hope that we can do that in partnership with the British Council, companies and education authorities. There are many good examples in Scotland, not least of which is the IBM call centre in Greenock, where languages are used for the good of our economy and to create jobs for individuals from Scotland and abroad.

We will continue to work in partnership with the British Council not only to attract great international conferences like the one that is taking place in Scotland this week, with delegates from 53 countries, but in our work abroad to promote Scotland and to help people elsewhere in the world who need to develop their education systems and skills.

Stewart Stevenson
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