Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, comments on the unlikely, but strong energy links between the two countries.
Scotland is blessed with a range of abundant natural resources from North Sea oil and gas and hydro power resources, which were developed in the 20th century, to the wind, wave, and tidal energy that we are increasingly mobilizing in this current century.
The industry that has built up around North Sea oil and gas makes a huge contribution to the economies of both Scotland and the United Kingdom—supporting around 440,000 jobs, almost half of them in Scotland. Today, over 2,000 companies operate Scotland’s oil and gas supply chain, with Scottish companies active in more than 40 countries, and exporting to over 80 countries, based around our global oil and gas hub, Aberdeen City. Aberdeen has a global reputation in oil and gas exploration, production, subsea technologies, logistics, and professional services, and is widely regarded as a center of excellence for the industry. A culture of collaboration has seen many of our universities forge strong links with the industry, including the University of Aberdeen Oil and Gas Center, the Robert Gordon University Center for Research in Energy and Environment, and the National Subsea Research Institute.
Allied to Scotland’s technical skills and expertise and supply chain capability, the industry can also call upon a supportive environment and strong infrastructure, with organizations such as Oil & Gas UK, OPITO, and SUBSEA UK—all located in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen has strong links to Azerbaijan, with commercial partnerships active there since the early 1990s. The importance of these links was underlined in May 2011 with the announcement by Azerbaijan Airlines of a new long-haul air route from Aberdeen to Baku—only the second direct link operating between Azerbaijan and the UK. This supports the movement and engagement of skilled workers between these two important oil and gas regions, encouraging cross-country trade and economic activity to the benefit of both.
Azerbaijan is already the sixth largest export market for Scotland’s oil and gas service/supply base, with a number of our leading companies operating there, including the Wood Group, RBG, Highland Rope Access International, and Fergusson Seacabs.
While oil and gas is the most obvious connection between our countries, there are other established and developing links. Indeed, I understand a Baku Caledonian Society was set up in 2007 and has been raising funds to support
local charities, as well as promoting Scottish culture.
In 2010, the Scottish government hosted a senior delegation from Azerbaijan, including the Deputy Minister of Education, where attendees examined our decentralized vocational education and training system. Such engagement, of course, benefits both nations. Several Scottish educational institutions have already established links with those in Azerbaijan—for example between Adam Smith College in Fife and the Azerbaijan Teachers Institute and between Edinburgh’s Stevenson College and Mingachevir Tourism College in Baku. Other partnerships are also being considered, which will strengthen the existing connections further.
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