On a brisk evening in January, I had the honour of hosting a Burns Supper at the Mansion House with the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.
The night was complete with bagpipes, haggis, and of course a “wee dram” of whisky.
The event brought together leading business figures from both sides of the border, and marked the launch of a new prospectus that showcases the strength of Scotland’s financial services sector.
It also heralded the start of the next phase of the City’s relationship with the region, which begins in earnest this week as I embark on a visit to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Scotland is a hugely important part of the UK’s financial and professional services sector. The industry accounts for nearly nine per cent of the Scottish economy – the largest area contribution in the UK outside of London.
The nation has a history of excellence in finance over some 300 years, and boasts several world-leading firms specialising in banking, life assurance, and pensions. Scotland is also a renowned hub for investment management and data science, and has an exciting fintech community.
Edinburgh and Glasgow, like London, are home to longstanding financial clusters. The Scottish capital employs over 50,000 people in finance, while across Scotland over 161,000 are employed in financial and professional services.
Just over a year ago, the City of London Corporation joined Scottish Financial Enterprise – an industry representative body – to pool our resources in promoting Scotland as an international centre for finance.
This move followed a decision by the City Corporation in April 2018 to double our UK-wide strategy, an initiative aimed at increasing inward investment and trade links, and raising awareness of export opportunities across the country as a whole, in addition to London.
I’ll be using my visit to call on more Scottish companies to join delegations on future overseas mayoral visits. I’ll also be urging Scottish firms across the sector to further leverage the advantages of London to access international capital markets, expand their businesses, and gain further exposure to a global customer base.
Another important part of my visit is promoting innovation and technology, championing digital skills, and addressing digital and social inclusion between London and Scotland as part of my “Shaping Tomorrow’s City Today” programme.
Boosting skills in areas like big data, the internet of things and artificial intelligence is a key aspect of this, and I look forward to discussions with Scottish colleagues about how they can play a role in delivering this agenda.
Of course, no visit at this time would be complete without discussing Brexit, and I don’t doubt that my conversation will address the UK’s future relationship with the EU. I’ll therefore be reassuring those I meet in Scotland that, whatever happens in Westminster and Brussels, our partnership is set to prosper in the long term, thanks to the strong foundations of the UK financial sector.
This is one old acquaintance that shall never be forgot.