I AM optimistic about the future. This might seem a strange thing to write in the midst of Brexit chaos, with a UK government and parliament in gridlock, and huge global challenges. It is easy to feel pessimistic, even fearful, about what the future holds – so why the optimism?

Last year, following the end of parliamentary sojourns, I set up Momentous Change in partnership with my colleague Michelle Thomson. The name Momentous Change was very deliberate. We wanted to seek out challenges, to find ways of making a different form of contribution to Scotland’s future. In just over a year, we have undertaken research into Brexit and Scottish business, helped develop a case for a merger, undertaken a major review of how small businesses could be better served by banks, spoken at conferences, written for journals at home and abroad and started mentoring prospective entrepreneurs both in Scotland and Africa. That is not all.

Most recently, we were commissioned to undertake background research in support of a stock exchange for Scotland. We were and are very aware of reactionary voices in Scotland that think we are too wee, too poor, too lacking in ability and our businesses, too lacking in chutzpah to have a successful stock exchange, despite all evidence to the contrary. Such stifling lack of ambition can be just as threatening to progress as UK government attitudes towards Scotland.

Our study, which any interested reader can find on www.momentouschangeltd.co.uk, was reviewed by leading American business magazine Forbes, which averred that “the 30-odd page study that puts the case for it is certainly well researched and gets one in the mood”. We need more people to be “in the mood” to create positive change for Scotland.

Furthermore, this new initiative, the brainchild of Tomas Carruthers, seeks to be more than a standard stock exchange. The exchange will offer investors the ability to invest in ethical, social and good corporate governance investments. It will build in commitments to sustainable development goals. The demand for such investments is growing and companies that seek to list will have to provide an initial impact assessment as part of the admissions process.

The benefits of having a stock exchange in Scotland are many. As Dr Jim Walker stated in his foreword to our report: “Countries with an undue reliance on the banking system … as a source of capital find that the entrepreneurial spirit is suppressed and economic growth is curtailed. The establishment of a stock exchange unleashes a dynamism that can scarcely be imagined by the layman.”

Six of the proven benefits to a business of a stock exchange listing are access to capital, enhanced profile, the ability to attract top-class employees, increased visibility, the ability to maintain control and reduction of the cost of other capital.

The fifth of these – ability to maintain control – is of particular importance to Scotland given her recent company history. Too often as local businesses reach a certain scale, they lose control as they are taken over. The ability to maintain control while raising significant monies from an Initial Public Offering can be an attractive option. Our report discusses this in greater detail.

We would strongly argue this initiative will be a significant benefit to the Scottish Government’s ambitions for Scotland. This year the First Minister re-launched the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework. It incorporates the UN Sustainable Development Goals, emphasising an ambition to embed such goals across government. To achieve the goals it must engage all of society including business. To have a new stock exchange specifically incorporating the sustainable development goals within its operations can be nothing other than supportive of Scotland’s ambitions.

This then explains why I am optimistic about the future. In our first year we are already identifying ambitious projects untrammelled by a “too wee, too poor” mentality. We place no limit on our ambitions. Nor should Scotland.