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  • Ian Ritchie : Scottish Business Insider

A hard act to follow

The attacks on Robert Crawford have been quite disgraceful, says Ian Ritchie.

FOUR YEARS AGO, Scottish Enterprise was an organisation that had, to a large extent, lost its way. If asked what its purpose was, the directors pretty much each gave a different answer. The administration, in the hands of its 2100-plus executives, frequently duplicated functions between network headquarters and each of its twelve local enterprise companies (LECs). The strategic direction was unclear.

Then Robert Crawford was appointed chief executive officer – he wanted the job so much he took a 50 per cent pay cut to take it on.

Without exception, nobody has worked harder for Scotland than Crawford has over the past four years. When SE moved into its new headquarters he chose a desk where he could clearly be seen by all the staff. He’s there early and leaves late.

The organisation was taken in hand. New networked information systems were developed. A hard look was taken at staffing levels – resulting in over 500 jobs being cut.

The interface between the HQ and the LECs was streamlined and the targets for delivery of services was increased.

A new strategy, ‘Smart Successful Scotland’, was agreed with the Scottish Executive – redefining the focus away from inward investment projects and towards the development of indigenous businesses.

Project Atlas set up a broadband trading exchange, ensuring competitive rates for Scottish businesses.

Infrastructure developments, such as the Rosyth-Zebrugge ferry and the many new direct international flights from Scottish airports, have been encouraged by marketing help and route development funds.

The new Co-Investment fund has ensured that venture capital is much more available for early-stage growth companies, via more than a dozen commercially driven Scottish-based investment partners.

The new Intermediate Technology Institutes (ITIs) now have first-class management and are creating commercialisation opportunities for Scotland’s well-regarded academic research in energy; life sciences and information and media technologies.

Of course there have been some challenges. Planning permission has frustratingly delayed the development of the new media campus at Pacific Quay. And the expansion of Project Atlas to Scotland’s business parks has been challenged at the European Union by telecoms company Thus.

But the biggest challenge has been from the press, particularly the Scotsman, which has developed its own agenda. The Scotsman has decided that Scottish Enterprise is failing, despite all evidence to the contrary. When an auditor report was published in December, clearly rejecting the previous Scotsman criticisms, it simply reported that the auditor had “slammed” Scottish Enterprise – the opposite of the truth, And its personal attacks on Crawford have been disgraceful.

This month, Robert Crawford steps down as chief executive of Scottish Enterprise.

He will be a very hard act to follow.

Ian Ritchie is a Director of Scottish Enterprise

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