Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thanks to Belinda for her kind introduction.I cant say how delighted I am to be here this morning in these magnificent surroundings to speak to you.
As a UK government minister Ive been in what is known as purdah for the last six weeks during the Scottish Parliament elections.
Purdah comes from a Persian word meaning religious seclusion.
I cant honestly say Ive been practicing religious seclusion for the last six weeks or taken a Trappist vow of silence.
But it has certainly meant that the public side of government business has been put on hold.
So I must say its nice to be allowed out again - blinking into the light - by my admirable civil service minders!
And particularly nice that my first public engagement since the end of purdah is to speak to a group of entrepreneurs.
Because Scotlands entrepreneurs have a key role to play in our countrys future.
So I pay tribute to Belinda Roberts for having the foresight to set up WeDO
We live in a fast-paced world where networks matter.
And WeDO provides an invaluable network for building relationships, exchanging ideas and sharing experiences as you establish and grow your businesses.
It was also great to see entrepreneurs from across Scotland come together yesterday for the Entrepreneurs Exchange hosted in Edinburgh and Glasgow with over 40 of the nations leading business founders coming together to give free and practical business advice to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
I know that you are all people with drive and ambition.
And we need your drive and ambition.
Were all ambitious for Scotland.
Ive said it before and Ill say it again, lets commit to making Scotland the most entrepreneurial place in the world.
Because if were to tackle poverty, address the scourge of long-term unemployment and deliver social justice, and we must, then we need first to generate the means to achieve our social goals.
We all know from our own lives that before you decide how to spend your money, you first have to earn it.And thats where Scotlands entrepreneurs come in.
Small businesses - and by that I mean those with fewer than 50 employees - are the engine room of our growing economy.
At the start of 2015 there were a record 355,000 small businesses in Scotland - an increase of over 60,000 since the start of 2010 - responsible for around 45 per cent of private sector employment and contributing nearly 70 billion in turnover.
Indeed when Sir Tom Hunter himself one of Scotlands foremost entrepreneurs - delivered a lecture at the Scotland Office last autumn he pointed out a little known fact that 100% of net new jobs in Scotland are created by businesses that are less than five years old.
So Im in no doubt of the crucial role you have to play if were to continue to build a growing and resilient economy here in Scotland.
In recent years Scotlands relative economic performance has been impressive - stronger than any part of the UK outside London and the South East.
But there is no room for complacency the current challenges faced by the oil and gas industry are a salutary reminder of that.
And some of the most recent economic data not least yesterdays labour market statistics suggests that the performance of the Scottish economy is beginning to lag behind the UK as a whole.
We all need to work together to ensure this is a blip and doesnt become a trend. It reminds us of the importance of strengthening and broadening the base of Scotlands onshore economy.
Moving beyond the Constitution
Thats why I for one look forward to moving on the debate in Scotland from constitutional issues.
Scotland seems to have, for the last five years, been in perpetual campaign mode.
There is of course the small matter of the EU referendum to come.
But I hope that on the morning of Friday the 24th June we can look forward to a period where governing takes priority over political campaigning.
When people can get on with their lives, and businesses can get on with doing business.
After all there will four years until the next national election in Scotland.
This provides a precious window of opportunity to focus on what opinion polls consistently tell us are the priorities for people in Scotland - creating more jobs, improving healthcare and building stronger schools.
And make no mistake; these are exciting times for Scotland.
A new parliament, with fresh powers, and great expectation about how they will be used.
The new Scotland Act, which received Royal Assent at the end of March, makes the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved parliaments anywhere in the world.
Alongside the new Act sits a new funding settlement for Scotland, giving the Scottish Government the financial tools it needs to manage its new responsibilities.
For the UK Government devolution is a matter of conviction, not political convenience.
A conviction rooted in a belief that decisions should be taken closer to the people they affect.
A belief also that de-centralisation makes it possible to shape policy to suit local conditions.
Indeed the UK Government would like to see devolution extend even further, to see not just the devolution of power from Westminster to Holyrood, but from Holyrood directly to local communities throughout Scotland.
Real, tangible, local devolution.
Thats why weve been promoting UK City Deals here in Scotland, with deals signed already with Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen, serious discussions underway with Edinburgh and support in the House of Commons last week from the Prime Minister to take forward a Tayside City Deal.
And thats also why the Chancellor has been championing initiatives in England like the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.
These deals have the potential to transform local economies and re-balance our national economy.
They are also a great example of working together: National and local government; UK and Scottish Governments; Public and private sectors.
Powerful partnerships with common purpose.
As the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, said on Monday, Scotland expects the UK and Scottish Governments to set aside their political differences to work together to advance the interests of all people in Scotland.
Having the very best constitutional structures and processes in the world are of course important, but they are not sufficient.
Making them work and making them work well - requires personal commitment and goodwill. Todays constitutional reality is no longer simply about what is devolved to the Scottish Government and reserved to the UK Government.
Todays reality is about the many responsibilities that are shared.
So its about how we work constructively together whilst respecting political differences.
Its about the right attitude.
Its about grown-up government, in which genuine concerns can be raised about each others areas of competence, without offence being taken or dividing lines drawn.
This is the attitude the UK Government will be adopting over the next four years.
And I hope very much that the new Scottish Government will respond in kind.
An Enterprise Culture
Nowhere is this need to work together more vital than on how we create a climate here in Scotland in which entrepreneurs can prosper.
Its about creating a positive climate of trust and confidence that empowers people to give of their best.
We all have different ideas of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Ideas creator, opportunity spotter, risk taker, job provider, value enhancer, you name it.
Of course an entrepreneur can be all of these things.
And lets be clear you dont have to start up your own business to be an entrepreneur.
You can work in a FTSE 100 company and be an entrepreneur.
You can work in a business thats been in the family for years and be an entrepreneur.
And you can work for one of our great public services and be an entrepreneur.
Because the reality is and you will know this better than anyone - that to be an entrepreneur is not a job or a profession, its a state of mind.
Its about the restless energy always looking to improve things for the better.
Its about the sense of personal responsibility and pride to always deliver what youve promised.
Above all its about caring for your business as if it were your own.
Now I was lucky enough 25 years ago to set up my own business.
I found the experience daunting and exciting in equal measure.
Daunted by a fear of failure.
Excited and empowered by the sense of being master of your own destiny.
It was however one of the best decisions I ever made.
Of course you make mistakes.
But you learn from them.
And as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed: that which does not kill us, makes us stronger!
One of the people I was lucky enough to work with closely during my business career was Sir Richard Branson - just plain Richard Branson in those days.
I learnt two things from him: dare to think the unthinkable and never ever give up; if you suffer a set-back, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on.
Our ambition as a government is to cement the UKs position as the b