The importance of shipping and trade for Edinburgh and the rest of the UK, an island nation, is business critical and we must continue to encourage and support the development of our port infrastructure to ensure our competitiveness in a global market.
Our ports in Scotland are fundamental to our economic success. Not only do they have a role in providing a base for trade and employment, but also one of connecting communities. More than two-thirds of exports in Scotland are distributed via our ports. Edinburgh was famous for exporting glass bottles to France and Spain, while exotic imports of spices and wines arrived from all over the world.
The success of our capital city has been supported by, and has been dependent on over the centuries, a thriving port in Leith, below. In fact, one of the campaigns by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce was to create a time signal for ships in the harbour of Leith and the Firth of Forth. This resulted in a decision in 1861 to fire a gun from Edinburgh Castle each day at 1pm and it is a tradition which still exists today.
The Port of Leith is the largest enclosed deep water port in Scotland. It has been the capital’s working port since the 12th century and has benefited from significant capital investment to develop its infrastructure in recent years.
Edinburgh in particular is enjoying the benefits from one of the fastest growing areas in the tourism sector, cruise ships. We expect to welcome more than 80 cruise ships this year in the Firth of Forth with more than 100,000 visitors enjoying our capital city. Within the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce our Inspiring Visitor and Inspiring Leith Groups are already planning for a great summer.
We look forward to new and exciting opportunities for our ports, a vital part of Scotland’s infrastructure. And, whilst technology has moved on, our one o’clock gun still provides a moment of reassurance that the latest electronic gadget is still keeping good time!
David Birrell is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce