The reason that everyone marches to the same tune

The Tartan Day Parade in New York every April celebrates centuries-old cultural ties between Scotland and the US – and exciting new business opportunities

By Graham Lironi

Click to access article as a .pdf

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, emphasizes the imperative for a Can Do culture

It was in her New Year’s message of 2016 that Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, stated: ‘I want to see a ‘can do’ culture define us as a country on every level’. To the uninitiated, it may have sounded like a general statement of ambition, but actually it spoke of an approach that was already bringing about significant change.

Scotland CAN DO is a movement all about the power of collaboration under a common vision – an innovative national approach based on the best international research from the likes of MIT and Harvard.

Its stated ambitions are to achieve:

  • An increase in entrepreneurship and innovation activity from individuals and businesses in Scotland resulting in more businesses being formed and new products and services from existing businesses;
  • More people from all walks of life with the ambition and skills to create, lead and grow successful businesses;
  • An education system with entrepreneurship and innovation at its core, seizing the opportunities presented by Curriculum for Excellence, college reform and the world-leading strength of Scotland’s universities;
  • More of Scotland’s knowledge and intellectual capital being commercialized and greatly increased collaboration between business and the academic sector; and
  • A greater focus on, and share of, global markets as Scotland’s business leaders grow in confi dence and expand their horizons internationally.

Rather than a government-driven strategy, an ecosystem, or ‘collective impact’, approach has been adopted. This means a range of partners coming together under a common banner and all working together towards the same goal: to become a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation. Scotland CAN DO acts as a focal point of activity in the entrepreneurial culture. It promotes collaboration and identifies particular areas to be targeted, such as helping more young people and women to start and grow businesses. CAN DO has obtained significant buy-in from public, private and third sector partners since it was launched in 2013.

The approach has now evolved to the point where Scotland CAN DO is in the process of transitioning from the Scottish Government acting as its convener, to Entrepreneurial Scotland (formed through the coming together of the Entrepreneurial Exchange and the Saltire Foundation) assuming this key role.

This shift from public to private will see the Scottish Government go from being Scotland CAN DO’s lead facilitator to one of its core partners, still heavily involved in setting the strategic direction but firmly within the context of a broader cultural movement focused on business – and indeed human – potential. It is further envisaged that the change will enable Scotland CAN DO to grow in the way that it deserves and be owned properly by the ecosystem itself.

It was Johann Wolfgang van Goethe who said: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it”.

Well, Scotland has begun, and we invite the rest of the world to join us in our journey of discovery.

To learn more, visit