02 Jul Garrowhill to Orlando
Tom Davis is the Senior Vice President of
Architecture & Construction for Mariott Resorts (Florida, USA)
1) Where did you grow up and when did you leave Scotland?
I grew up in Garrowhill and left to go to Bahrain with my parents when I was 10 years old. We returned a few years later, lived in East Kilbride and left for good when I was 17 years old.
2) What is your job/sector and how many countries have you lived in?
I am the Senior Vice President of Architecture & Construction for Marriott Resorts and I have lived in seven different countries including Scotland, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia and the USA. I have built Marriott and Ritz Carlton projects in 27 countries around the world.
3) Do you sometimes visit bonny Scotland?
Scotland is not a main air transit hub and requires a side trip when I am travelling around in general. As a result I do not get back as often as I would like to, but I did visit last summer for a few days at the end of July. The weather was excellent and my fiancé from New Orleans felt like she was visiting a “fairytale land”. The castles, the villages, the winding country roads, the inns, the pubs, the people and the quaintness, she loved it all.
4) What do people in your host country think of Scots and Scotland?
Most Americans make little distinction between Scots and Irish and think that only the English are “British”. So, their thoughts about Scotland do not run particularly deep and the overall image is still epitomised by the movie Brigadoon. The Americans that I know that have visited Scotland all love it, and talk about the friendliness of the Scots. For the most part, Americans that do make it to Scotland are the more affluent set and can afford the best that the country has to offer.
5) Should haggis be a protected species?
No! It’s a ferocious predator that should be hunted to extinction.
6) Has living abroad changed the way you think about Scotland?
Yes, of course. When I was a kid living there we could not afford much and took holidays to Butlins. I had never even been to England, so our world was pretty small and life was modest. When I visit Scotland now I vacation like an American tourist and of course stay at places like the Marriott Dalmahoy Golf Resort near Edinburgh, eat at restaurants I could not have imagined as a boy, rent sports cars to take advantage of Scotland’s winding country roads and I always visit in late July when the weather is best. I see a side of Scotland today that I would never have seen if I had stayed.
7) What do you miss most and least about the auld country?
I miss family left behind most of all. What I don’t miss is the negative effects that come with being a welfare state.
8) What about the independence referendum coming up? How will it affect you and Scotland’s international image?
The independence referendum will have no affect on me personally. Independence will likely have no impact on Scotland’s international image unless the country also does something profound along with it. If independence is won and the average Scot expects to get a few thousand pounds each as a hand out, then nothing will have been gained.
On the other hand, if Scotland gains independence and does something profound like becoming a tax haven by establishing a simple flat tax of 10% for all businesses, 15% for individuals on income over 10,000 pounds a year and 0% tax on income under 10,000 pounds, then the impact would be heard around the world on BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and others. Business would pour in, wealthier individuals would buy residences in Scotland and the average man on the street would live tax free in a booming economy.
9) When are you coming home for good and do you have a message for Scots back home?
My permanent home is in St. Thomas in The United States Virgin Islands, but a vacation home in Scotland is not out of the question. The population in Scotland has been static at 5 million since the 70’s while the USA population has increased by 33%. That is bad for the economy and provides little opportunity for ambitious young people.
So, as well as thinking about the possibility of independence, think really big, on a global scale. Why not do a bond issue and build a major new international airport in Scotland, somewhere between Glasgow and Edinburgh to compete with London. Amsterdam did it and would only have a fraction of its tourism without it.
I have dealt with Scottish Development International in my business before; very, very nice people, but too nice and too conservative in their “soft sell” of Scotland. If you want to really promote Scottish golf, tourism, industrial opportunity and the skilled work force, hire the best New York Advertising Agency you can find and do some serious hard selling. These guys know what they are doing and have done it before for many governments around the world.
Create a tax haven with rock-bottom rates that brings in business and high quality, well heeled immigrants to get the population up and cash flowing into the economy. Minimize government bureaucracy, reverse the welfare state and force young people to depend on themselves and not the government. Educate the population on the benefits of a multi-cultural society in Scotland, because it is happening anyway and putting a positive spin on it is better than putting a negative spin on it.
So, when people from around the world arrive and are standing in front of a Scottish immigration officer, take a cue from the Jamaicans, tell them to fake the biggest smile they can and say “Welcome to Scotland”.