There was a bittersweet end to last night’s FSB Scotland spring reception.
After 16 years as Scottish Policy Convener (and over quarter of a century as an activist), Andy Willox OBE has decided to stand down, to be replaced by Andrew McRae – one of Scotland’s leading independent retailers.
So, as well as hearing Andrew’s first speech as Policy Unit Chair (more on that in a minute), the audience of business owners, politicians, officials and media had a chance to thank Andy for his continual campaigning on small businesses’ behalf.
Making the keynote address, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, praised Andy as “a tireless champion of local business” who had, with the FSB, “put smaller businesses at the heart of economic and political debate in Scotland.”
From the campaign for the Small Business Bonus (which has saved Scotland’s small businesses £1bn and counting since it was introduced in 2007), to our drives to reform public procurement, tackle late payment, preserve a bank branch network worthy of the name and more, Andy has always, the FM observed, been leading the charge.
“When he set up in business,” she added, “Andy couldn’t have imagined the impact he would have on the business, political and public policy worlds. Tonight, I am sure we would all like to thank him for the sterling work he’s done over the past 16 years and wish him all the very best for the future.”
Something which all of us who have had the privilege to work with Andy over the years would wholeheartedly endorse.
But, the wheel continues to turn – and the evening also saw us welcome, in his first official engagement, Andrew McRae as new Policy Unit Chair.
Andrew is an architect by profession but he and his wife Alice now employ 20 people in their Museum Context shops in Edinburgh and a further ten people in Hong Kong.
They recently gained international media attention with their Victoria Street shopping experience, which celebrates the world of Harry Potter.
Outlining his priorities for the role, Andrew pledged “to continue Andy’s legacy, taking forward our campaigns tackling the scourge of late payment; trying to get a fair deal from the banks; and ensuring Scotland’s town and city centres are great places to live, work and do business.
“I’ve seen business from the high street and the office block. And so I know first-hand about how big businesses can choose to put pressure on smaller firms. I know how difficult it can be to keep overheads under control while trying to get customers through the door. And I understand the frustration when government action makes it harder to run a business not easier.”
So as one chapter closes, another one begins. If it’s half as action-packed as the last one, we’re in for a treat.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who made last night such a success. It was a real team effort and there are too many to mention – but @Laura @Gordon @ Dorothy should be singled out for going above and beyond.