14 Sep 2022
By Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
Two photographs of Her Majesty the Queen have become lodged in my mind as the city’s business community shares deeply in mourning her loss.
The first is a formal portrait picture which hangs in the President’s Room at the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce’s George Square office. It shows Her Majesty facing straight towards the viewer with an expression that could perhaps be considered a trifle austere, even intimidating. It is our Queen, our head of state, and as such it is also familiar and reassuring.
It is well known that the Queen was the patron for over 600 organisations and we are immensely proud that amongst that number is the British Chambers of Commerce. The picture that hangs in the President’s Room is in recognition of Her relationship with the Chambers’ movement. Her support lasted for over 70 years as the Queen became our patron on the 23 June 1952, just four and a half months after her accession to the throne on 6 February.
There is no doubt that the Queen took a clear interest in the success of the country’s business community. The Queen’s Award for Enterprise, set up initially in 1965 as the Queen’s Award to Industry, recognises outstanding achievement by UK business in categories such as innovation, international trade and the promotion of opportunity through social mobility - a category that was added as recently as 2017. Over 6,000 businesses have received an award.
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce has an even longer relationship with the monarchy as it was formed by Royal Charter in 1783 by the Queen’s three times great grandfather King George III. We are always conscious that amongst some younger businesspeople our historic roots might be considered too conservative for those entrepreneurs who would consider themselves disruptors of the establishment. However, that heritage is an asset and our association with the Royal Family gives gravitas to our organisation.
The second photograph shows the other, more informal face of the Queen. It is the well-known image of a selfie by two Australian athletes at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The Queen can be seen peeking through netting that separates her from those athletes, broadly smiling as she ‘photobombs’ their moment. The image captures Her Majesty’s passion and dedication for sport and culture.
Many have observed that the United Kingdom has changed dramatically in 70 years and Glasgow is no different. Our city has been through crisis and regeneration and at almost every major milestone the Queen has been present.
She opened the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in 1985, the refurbished Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in 2006, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in 2015 and, in the same year, the Technology and Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde. I will personally treasure that last event as one I was personally invited to attend. These moments, and so many more, tell the story of Glasgow’s economic recovery and the Queen has been a steadfast companion along the journey.
That we must now adapt to a world without her is profoundly sad but we have good reason to be confident in the prospects for a very similar relationship with the King.
In November last year, Prince Charles spent the better part of a week in Glasgow at the COP26 Climate Change Conference. Glasgow Chamber members met with the Prince at, discussing the opportunities and progress in developing a circular economy and supporting his Sustainable Markets Initiative. The King’s views on climate change have occasionally been described as controversial but amongst the Chamber members that is not the opinion. The aims and actions of the Terra Carta, launched in 2021 as the guiding mandate of the Sustainable Markets Initiative, are entirely in tune with the aspirations of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. The warmth, respect and enthusiasm of the conversation our members had with the Prince that afternoon bodes well as he takes on his new responsibilities as King.
This article was first published in The Herald on Wednesday 14 September 2022