And yet now, according to two Scottish professors, their countrymen have run out of inventive, entrepreneurial flair. The race that did more than any other to develop that bastion of enterprise culture, Hong Kong, is found wanting when it comes to applying the lessons back home.
Scotland, according to Professor Mike Danson of the University of Paisley and Professor Gavin McCrone of Edinburgh University, lies at the bottom of the entrepreneurial heap. Designating 1996 as the Year of the Entrepreneur did not do much good either. The Scots have the worst record of any area of the UK for small business creation, the engine of jobs growth. What is more, they have only been spared an even worse unemployment rate by the high rates of economic migration elsewhere.
There is a serious point to this particular Scottish lament. For the worry is that Scotland has become so reliant on inward investment that it has lost the ability to invest in itself. It has developed a dependency culture where it is easier to create Hyundai jobs at pounds 120,000 a throw than create job opportunities for itself by nourishing home grown talent
The professors lay the blame squarely at the doors of the business development agencies and banks, fingering them as the "anti-enterprise Scots". Perhaps these organisations need an overhaul at the top. But where are the Scots to help point them in a more entrepreneurial direction? How about Brian Souter to run the Scottish Development Agency and his sister, Ann Gloag, to chair Royal Bank of Scotland. Any better suggestions?