Marie was invited to speak at the ScottishPower Summer Reception by Keith Anderson, CEO ScottishPower. Marie addressed key ScottishPower stakeholders on community urban regeneration. The full speech is below:

Ladies & Gentlemen. Thank you for your kindness and warm welcome.  To be standing here tonight in the historic Greyfriars Kirk for me is a dream come true.To think that in 1638 the National Covenant was signed in front of the pulpit here after many years of unrest, is both humbling and a great honour.

Greyfriars Kirk  has seen many changes over the years. In 1845 the then Minister, Robert Lee saw an “Opportunity” to reform aspects of worship and church order with a less  puritanical style of  worship and prayers. This included the introduction of coloured windows, a pipe organ leading to music for Hymn singing, where parishioners were allowed to stand to sing and sit to pray. Now that is music to my ears. As anyone who knows me or follows my Twitter feeds will understand, I love music.

Turning back to the Rev Lee – in 1867, if he had not suffered a stroke and fallen from his horse and subsequently died, he would

have been  called to the General Assembly and tried for his  “Innovation”. For his time, he was disruptive, transformational, aspirational in seeking a new order at Greyfriars Kirk .

That word “disruptive” resonates so much with me because I’ve been called a disruptive influence. I take this as a compliment because being disruptive can lead to “transformational “ outcomes. Ladies and Gentlemen, I can assure you that tonight I will not be disruptive – unlike  Jenny Geddes who flung her prayer stool at the Dean of the High Kirk of St Giles in 1637 when he tried to read from the new Common prayer book for the first time.

So, this ‘Disruptive Influence‘ standing before you tonight grew up in a town which was a former industrial power house – Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. My town was built by entrepreneurs of greatness with the likes of Johnnie Walke

r Whisky, Stoddard Carpets and Glenfield & Kennedy Engineering to name but three. However, in the 1970s and 80s we lost many of our shining lights, due to the decline of industries and, unfortunately, we still face such decline in the towns of Scotland and the UK.

Why ?

Because for the last 35 years Governments and large businesses have continued to concentrate on cities, arguing that if you create economic value there, it will flow into surrounding towns and rural economies. I am sorry to say I don’t believe it works this way!

This has resulted in many of our communities having no hope or aspiration, with many young people not leaving  their own postcodes areas. Some never having visited the seaside or countryside or a city like Edinburgh or Glasgow or even flown in an aeroplane to experience the wider world. So, in the 1970s when my parents took a shy young girl who was not the most articulate (a condition now recognised as dyslexia)  to a vibrant Edinburgh to see the Castle and watch pipe bands that was a rare but amazing occasion. In fact, looking back that’s when I realised there were two different worlds – one of decline and one of prosperity. But each had something  in common “communities with huge beating hearts”.

So, tonight I return to this beautiful city of Edinburgh, to sing from the hymn sheet of how our forefathers and our communities had a dream: to build a Scotland on a foundation of opportunity, to build a Scotland by the hands of men and women of greatness, to build a  Scotland with hope, belief  and tenacity. And now we have a new dream: a NEW GOLD dream to create the most aspirational, entrepreneurial society in the world with opportunities for all. Opportunities result from collaboration, partnerships and friendships. Partnerships like the one led by Keith and his amazing ScottishPower team.

This partnership is with THE HALO Scotland, a £65M urban regeneration initiative in Kilmarnock, set on a 28-acre derelict industrial site derelict for 8 years after the closure of the Johnnie Walker bottling plant with the loss of 700 jobs. I have been dedicated to this initiative for all of these 8 years and will be for many years to come. I am seeking to revitalise a community experiencing real time market failure. The HALO  is in a deprived postcode area with the 3rd highest youth unemployment in Scotland ( 3.3% against a national average of 2.1% and the same post code area of my childhood). Our project is transformational through collaboration with partners such as The Scottish Government Regeneration and Energy.

Departments and The UK Government through its UK Industrial Strategy where (£9M) is being contributed for infrastructure and innovation. My life is committed to young people and our forgotten communities. I believe in creating  “opportunity” for all,  but especially  young people. I’ve pursued a solution for the site with a great team and the support of the local community.

My dream and hope is for all HALO  projects to shape tomorrow’s world, based on  “Live, Work, Learn and Play “ and be at the forefront of digital skills, technology , manufacturing and innovation. HALO is being shaped round a new urban park, with an Enterprise and Innovation Centre, live-work spaces, workshops, leisure facilities and homes for key workers and will be a unique environment for practical learning. SP has entered into a 5-year Partnership with HALO. Keith and his SP team have the foresight and the belief that all young people should have equal opportunity to aspire and be the best they can be. As I say “it doesn’t matter where you come from its where you are going”. SP as headline partner / sponsor and the leader of our Innovation, Digital and Cyber Zone are showing the world  that the company is caring, inventive and a forward -looking champion of Innovation, intent on being the “Utility of The Future”. That HALO Effect will create up to  1400 jobs around innovation, digital  manufacturing and cyber skills.

The HALO Effect will  develop SP research and testing and practical learning partnerships with academic institutions including UWS, Ayrshire College, GCU and Strathclyde University, looking at new energy technologies, the homes and transport of the future and many other areas of specialist interest to ScottishPower – and tomorrow’s society in general.

The HALO Effect will facilitate the training and re training, including cyber security learning and training for SP management, employees and their families in our Enterprise , Innovation , Digital and Cyber Zone.

The HALO effect will put our young people front and central to inspiring self-motivation, confidence, aspiration and hope – in turn stimulating enterprise and jobs.

The HALO effect will be at the forefront of creating a first in the UK – a Children’s Innovation Centre and Nursery of the future .

With team HALO and team SP working with HALO partners  such as Scottish Business Resilience Centre, GCHQ and Young Scot we will seize this moment  embracing practical learning and development of energy technology, renewable energy, digital learning and cyber security.

We will put the ‘Utility of The Future’ firmly at the heart and forefront of creating opportunity through innovation being disruptive and transformational .

Through the leadership at SP we will see support for scale up and new start business again putting entrepreneurs front and central to energising a new economy for Ayrshire, Scotland and beyond. You see, through leadership, SP is mapping out change, staying true to itself, putting its head above the parapet (or here should I say pulpit) and doing the right thing.  Only when big businesses change their model will once forgotten communities, not just in Scotland, but globally, benefit from the success of these companies. In turn, these companies will benefit from an innovative, diverse, skilled workforce.

My HALO mantra is just like the Rev Robert Lee: “let communities sing again, let them be disruptive, let them be transformational”.

HALO Scotland is now the catalyst for further HALO projects throughout the UK from the Northern Power House, to West Belfast NI, and Wales, with being picked purposely in economic challenging areas. Through partnership with SP we are seizing the “opportunity” to light up Britain and beyond. ‘This HALO New Gold Dream’ for the economic prosperity  can and will be taken globally. This will be delivered by building partnerships  around the sound foundations of our communities.

In this room are the policy makers, current leaders and future leaders from private, public and third sectors who have responsibility for developing ideas and tools to address the economic issues  in the 21st century.

Whether it is Burnley, Bersham, Belfast or Kilmarnock – these communities were at the forefront of the 1st Industrial Revolution. Harland and Wolf, Mackie Engineering and 32 Belfast linen mills in 1861. Andrew Barclay Railway Locomotives and Stoddard Carpets to name a few whose work force put us on the global stage. We have lost many of these industries, so what do we do – stand back and do nothing?  Well in my book that’s just not an option. In this 21st century the 4th Industrial Revolution has dawned: the digital and cyber age.

This and emerging markets is where I see huge opportunities. So, we need to seize the moment for our young people and create an Infrastructure of land, sea and air – using assets in the key locations to develop an innovative, smart, productive and inclusive economy.

Yes, there is an elephant in the room – BREXIT  – which has affected us all and, if honest, the last thing business needs after the great recession of 2008, business needs certainty. So again, in my book we in the private sector need to keep delivering and work with forward thinking  agencies and divine thinkers thus remaining open for business and growing our economy.

Recently SCDI reported that if Scotland became a digital world leader, GDP would increase by £13 billion by 2030. Compared to £4 Billion with only incremental improvements. The first industrial revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The second used electric power to create mass production. The third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a fourth industrial revolution is building on the third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterised by a fusion of technologies and has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.

And with the talent and vision I see  in our communities and with SP leading the challenge I truly believe we will be at the forefront of this revolution. Tonight, my message is one about hope, opportunity, belief, all wrapped up in a beating heart! That heart is in this room tonight. That heart of business and communities coming together in this historic Kirk. A Kirk which in 2016 formed the Grey Friars Kirk and Grassmarket Mission which develops people’s self-worth, social works and skills.

Primarily for individuals facing deep social exclusion where they encourage members of the local community to join in and work side by side. It is open to all faiths and those of none, a centre for the community. It is about aspiration, reaching their potential, improving their skill base, building upon their existing abilities /dreams and building self-confidence.

Here “the people sing again”. In the north west corner of this Kirk is a Peter Collins Organ built in 1990. Engraved in Latin is ‘let everything that hath breath praise the lord’. You see it doesn’t matter where you come from its where your going . With SP driving a “transformational “ business model based upon diversity, clean growth , innovation and community values. They are leading the challenge. They are the ‘New Gold Dream’. They are the ‘utility of the 4th Industrial Revolution’. They are  ‘the utility of the future’ at tomorrow’s world. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening.


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