Will Edinburgh be Scotland’s Start-Up Capital?

  Every kingdom needs a crown. Alexander had Babylon, the Carthaginians wanted Rome and the UK has London. But for many Scots, London is less a crown than it is a ten-tonne weight, promising to sink the country further into some nameless abyss. Validity of anti-London sentiments aside, Scotland needs its own crown; a centre of growth closer to home to inspire the hearts of the disheartened.

  Cue Edinburgh, the hilly champion of Scotland’s future. Edinburgh is already the UK’s largest financial centre outside of London and bears the unofficial title of UK’s second capital – a claim that somewhat risks belittling the city’s potential. Because far more important than Edinburgh’s past or present, is its future – as the budding pioneer of a reinvigorated Scotland.

  Back in 2008, the technology sector helped London define a sexy start-up image to surpass even the likes of Silicon Valley; a place where entrepreneurship is everybody’s go-to friend. The so-called Silicon Roundabout began as the epicentre to this technology revolution, underscoring the need to have centralised entrepreneurial communities and areas of growth, spurring that all-essential dynamism.

  Edinburgh has been keen to similarly recognise the importance of these incubated hubs. TechCube, started in 2012, is the home for many of the city’s budding tech start-ups. It is designed to resemble the spaces found in Silicon Valley, and has become the seed for Edinburgh’s start-up boom. The turbulent post-recession years left one lasting impression on Western markets: innovation is king. The traditional (some would say archaic) approach to business has devolved into the bane of prosperity: the stuffy suits, noose-like neck ties and 9 to 5 schedules etc. Start-ups represent the alternative, out with the old and in with the new, where sandals, beanbag cushions and intimate consumer relationships are the name of the game.

  Obviously, however, Scotland is anchored by more than its dependence on traditional industries. Start-ups simply represent the progression that the country requires to separate from its past, one steeped in wealth inequality, North Sea oil and an overindulgence on the idea of independence as the gateway to growth. The bottom line is that tech start-ups are a necessary shot of adrenaline into the country’s state of stagnation. And that’s why over recent years Edinburgh has become the home to some substantial players, not least the likes of Amazon, Rockstar North (developers of GTA) and Skyscanner, which was Scotland’s first home-grown $1 billion start-up.  

  Naturally, Edinburgh hasn’t been shy about touting its start-up success. [1] More cities will follow, but for now its essential Scotland has a centre to achieve wealth parity with neighbouring economies. Creative industries, which include the technology sector, have seen year-on-year growth over the past four years. Largely driven by software development and design, the GVA in Scotland’s creative industries sector grew by 23.8% in 2012 alone. [2]

  Technology offers boundless opportunity for growth and innovation: a continued challenge to entrepreneurs to improve the way we live, think and act. Within the law of technical revolution, there is no room for sentimentality or nostalgia. The past is the past; the archaic business practices and attitudes of yesteryear must undergo a process of natural selection, the result of which is invariably one-sided (less suits and ties). Scotland must etch out a new future.

  It can learn from London, but Edinburgh doesn’t need to be a new London. It is capable of generating its own unique entrepreneurial spirit, borne from a wider cultural shift in how Scotland views its past, present and future. No vote aside, the country has been irrevocably changed by the referendum. Through greater autonomy and fiscal policy control, the mechanisms are in place to raise Edinburgh as the crown of Scotland’s new future.


[1] http://www.cbronline.com/news/verticals/finance/scotlands-tech-sector-nets-record-investment-as-edinburgh-produces-first-unicorns-4812112
[2] http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Business/SABS/KeyFacts