In February this year, the Scottish and Italian Governments co-sponsored an event to promote the Milan EXPO 2015. The evening reception, hosted by the First Minister and the Italian Ambassador, followed a conference featuring discussion panels on Fairtrade, and on low carbon and energy.
The Milan EXPO 2015 has since opened and begun welcoming the first of an expected 20 million visitors. The EXPO is a Universal Exhibition in which 147 countries are demonstrating the very best of their technology under the theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’. It aims to serve as a platform for the exchange of ideas and shared solutions on the theme of food, and to promote innovation for a sustainable future.
The Expo therefore provides an opportunity to build Scotland’s international reputation, boost trade and investment and to promote the Year of Food and Drink. With that in mind, the Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf visited for two days at the start of July .
Mr Yousaf found out how different countries are addressing the food and energy challenges of the 21st century through visits to the UK Pavilion as well as the Zambian, Tanzanian, UAE, and US Pavilions. The President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Britain, Leonardo Simonelli, also hosted a visit to the Italian Pavilion.
Whilst in Milan Mr Yousaf also highlighted how Scottish companies are thriving in Europe and benefit from our continued place in the EU. He addressed a joint Scottish Government-British Chamber of Commerce for Italy lunch of over 60 Italian companies on opportunities in Scotland, met with the UK Consul General and welcomed the Lombardy Minister for Expo and Business with a glass of Traquair Ale!
Our EU membership and access to the Single Market is critical to inward investors. Whilst in Milan, Mr Yousaf met with senior representatives of the Italian company Guala Closure, a world leader in the manufacturing of bottle caps and closures for a range of products, which employs over 100 people in Kirkintilloch. He also met with Falck Renewables who have a range of investments in Scotland.
Scottish companies have also been quick to grasp opportunities in Europe and Mr Yousaf visited the Milan premises of Holland and Sherry, a Peebles-based luxury textile company. He heard about the company’s plans for expansion, the support they have received through Scottish Enterprise, and discussed the barriers and opportunities for Scottish firms exporting their goods.
Expo 2015 provides an opportunity to learn from others, share experience and best practice across Europe and enhance Scotland’s reputation and attractiveness. Alongside representatives of the European Commission, and the Taiwanese and Italian Governments Mr Yousaf delivered an address to the Social Enterprise World Forum on the role of government in stimulating social enterprise.
Scottish engagement with the themes and work exhibited at the EXPO and its accompanying events highlights the value of Scotland’s continuing international engagement and the importance of continuing EU membership to that. Guala Closures, Falck Renewables and Holland and Sherry are all good exemplars of the importance of Scotland’s EU membership to fulfilling ambitions in Scotland to secure investment, create wealth and tackle inequalities, and foster innovation. For all these reasons and more the Scottish Government is committed to making the positive case for Scotland’s continuing EU membership.