Flying Flag for New Zealand in Moffat

BEFORE setting off on an official visit to New Zealand this week, local MP David Mundell did not have far to go for helpful insights.

For the Commonwealth country’s Honorary Consul for Scotland is fellow Moffat resident Sir Neil McIntosh.

In his role as Scottish Secretary, Mr Mundell is helping promote UK – New Zealand trade as Brexit approaches, building further on long-standing ties between the two countries.

And he enjoyed his chat with Sir Neil, a former chief executive of the old Dumfries and Galloway Regional Council and Strathclyde Regional Council.

Mr Mundell said: “I’ve known Sir Neil for many years, even going back to the time I was a local councillor in the 1980s.
“It was a great opportunity to share his unique perspective of Scotland and New Zealand over a coffee in our hometown.”

The two countries have much in common with a similar-sized population and an economy in which rural tourism, agriculture, technology, culture and education are important.

During the week-long visit Mr Mundell has been meeting New Zealand government ministers and business leaders.

He said: “Scotland’s skills, products and services are exceptional and I’m confident this visit will help develop trading opportunities as we leave the EU.”

After retiring from local government, Sir Neil, who has lived in Moffat for 32 years, served on a number of public bodies, gaining a reputation internationally as a public administrator.

As chief accounting officer during the 1997 referendum on devolution, he announced the national result which led to the creation of the Scottish Parliament.

His wide experience of Scottish and UK public administration together with first hand knowledge of New Zealand led to his invitation to become Honorary Consul.

He represents the country’s High Commissioner in London, Sir Jerry Mataparae, north of the border, largely working from home but with access to an office and administrative support in Edinburgh.

Sir Neil, who is married with a son and two daughters, said: “I find Kiwis (New Zealanders) bright, friendly people who are extremely proud of their country.
“Although small and relatively remote, it is a successful nation that punches above its weight internationally.
“In my role I’m here to help any New Zealanders who need assistance and also give the High Commissioner an insight about what is going on in Scotland.”

He said the large number of people with New Zealand links in Scotland became clear to him after seeing the numerous Kiwi supporters at Murrayfield rugby internationals.

Several visits, including an official briefing in New Zealand, have provided Sir Neil with an insight into the country which has a similar structure to the UK.

But a month-long trek in 2000 with Moffat friend, retired photographer and film-maker Terrence Leigh, gave him an earlier grassroots flavour of the country when they walked 400 miles of New Zealand’s South Island.

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