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  • Ian Ritchie : Scottish Business Insider

To sloganise: a substitute for reasoned discussion (dict)

IF YOU AGREE a slogan for a company or an enterprise, you are inevitably setting yourself up to be measured against it. So when Google decided to adopt as its company creed ‘don’t be evil’, it was inviting criticism any time that its actions weren’t entirely lily white.

That seems to have been the conclusion of a US Congressional committee recently when it decided to carpet the leading search companies Yahoo, Microsoft and Google over their activities in China.

“Your abhorrent actions in China are a disgrace,” declared Representative Tom Lantos, the senior Democrat on the committee. “I simply don’t understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night.”

Well, the answer is probably that by agreeing to limit free access to information they stand to make a huge pile of money from the fast-growing Chinese economy and without cow-towing to the authorities they wouldn’t be allowed to operate there at all.

Maybe the slogan should have read ‘don’t be evil - as long as it doesn’t cost us a lot, in which case, be just a little evil’.

The Scottish Executive has decided on an equally ambitious slogan — ‘the best small country in the world’ — and has splashed it all over the arrival points at Scotland’s main airports.

I suppose this is fine, unless you happened to have flown in from Dublin, or Reykjavik, or Dubai, in which case you might want to do the comparison and, perhaps, question the assertion.

As it happens, I arrived at Glasgow Airport from a trip to Dubai recently and the contrast was startling — and I don’t just mean the climate. I know that Dubai is not a democratic country and that the economy relies hugely on an army of poorly paid Indians and Pakistanis who can be booted out at a moments notice and, of course, I wouldn’t want to be ruled by the hereditary Sheiks who make all the key decisions.

But it is the sheer level of ambition that just takes your breath away. Dubai, with a population of 1.1 million, has decided to be the global city of the twenty-first century The tallest building in the world is currently under construction and they are building the world’s largest airport. They even have the world’s biggest indoor ski slope.

There is as much investment going on in Dubai right now, some £100bn or so, as is invested in total in the whole of the US in a year. And all this with a population of less than a quarter of Scotland’s.

Meanwhile, back in Scotland, we can’t even make up our mind whether to replace our worn-out Forth Road Bridge, or even plan to build a decent motorway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, or Edinburgh and Newcastle.

Dubai doesn’t need posters declaring it to be the ‘best small country in the world’ — the evidence is all around you.

Speaking of slogans, I once suggested one for Scottish Enterprise to then chief executive Crawford Beveridge. He didn’t take me up on it, but I still think it has merit

My idea was that ScotEnt should adopt a quote from JM Barrie as its slogan. “There are few more impressive things in this world than a Scotsman on the make.”

Evidenced by the many Scots who are leading big construction projects in Dubai.

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