Scotland and the whole of Britain remain open for business

Whenever I travel, I always think about Scots, past and present, who have trod the same path as I do now. All across the world the Scottish diaspora has had extraordinary influence. It reminds me that the people of Scotland always have been and always will be outward looking and globally minded.

In Singapore, this has particular resonance. William Farquhar, who hailed from Aberdeenshire, played a pivotal role in laying down the foundations of modern Singapore. Appointed the first Resident of Singapore in 1819, he was also integral to the negotiation that led to the signing of the Singapore Treaty itself.

As you can imagine, in the UK today, negotiations have been on a lot of people's minds.

Last week the Prime Minister triggered Article 50, signalling the start of a two year negotiation process as we leave the EU.

It is safe to say that in the UK, we are living through an extraordinary time in politics. But even in times of change, the fundamentals remain the same. For the UK Government, those fundamentals are simple: that we work to build a global Britain, a stronger economy, a fairer society and a united nation. These are the fundamentals that support our Plan for Britain, and which guide us in everything we take forward.

We want to forge a new and ambitious place in the world, maintaining our links with our close friends in Europe while we build stronger and closer relationships with our allies and friends - old and new - around the globe. We are taking that outward looking, entrepreneurial, internationalist spirit that Farquhar had and making a success of the future ahead.

In Singapore I see that international and entrepreneurial spirit everywhere. It's clear in meetings I've had with Scottish companies specialising in fintech, robotics and data analytics, who are thriving here, and in industries that are going from strength to strength.

Like Singapore, food is very close to the heart of Scotland and its people. We are blessed with a fantastic larder of some of the best naturally healthy produce in the world. Food and drink is Scotland's top export industry - we sell our produce to over 200 markets worldwide. Singapore is the fifth largest market for Scottish food and drink exports worldwide. In 2016, food exports from Scotland were valued at $2.6 billion, up a staggering 22% since 2015. $82 million of this rise comes from exports to Asia alone.

Our Scottish larder is packed with delicious products from PGI Scotch beef and Label Rouge Salmon to traditionally made Oatcake biscuits, crumbly Shortbread and moist Dundee Cake to world famous whiskies hailing from the remote corners of Scotland. I am delighted to find so many of our special products in the restaurants, delicatessens and supermarkets of Singapore for everyone to enjoy.

I have celebrated Singapore's close links with international universities, especially the success of Glasgow School of Art's Singapore Campus - and education is a fantastic example of Scotland and Singapore working together, sharing knowledge for the benefit of everyone.

As well as technological, cultural and social links between our two countries, we are also close trading partners. Singapore is the UK's largest trading partner in Southeast Asia - a relationship that we want to grow, alongside other Asian allies and partners as we embrace new global opportunities around the world.

In the case of countries that already have a free trade agreement with the UK via the EU, we want to minimise disruption for companies that do business in and with the UK.

My message is clear: Scotland and the whole UK remain very much open for business.

We are approaching this new chapter of the UK's future with optimism and confidence.

Confidence that the UK will thrive outside the EU, that our relationship with Singapore, as with relationships in Asia and around the world, will flourish. And we do so as one strong United Kingdom - a partnership of four nations, working together for ordinary working people across the country.

As the Secretary of State for Scotland, my job within the UK government is to deliver for Scotland. That's why I have been here, banging the drum for Scottish industries and deepening our ties with Singapore.

Throughout my trip here I've seen nothing but positive outcomes and optimism for the future. From Scottish investors, collaborating with firms based in Singapore to sell goods and services, to Glaswegian lecturers travelling to Asia's world class universities to share knowledge.

I very much hope this collaboration and friendship deepens in the years ahead, as Singapore and the UK continue to go from strength to strength.

The writer is Secretary of State for Scotland, United Kingdom. He is in Singapore on April 5 and 6.