Adam Smith: The man and the brand

The unveiling of the Adam Smith Statue on the Royal Mile by Professor Vernon Lomax Smith
The unveiling of the Adam Smith Statue on the Royal Mile by Professor Vernon Lomax Smith
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IT is perhaps fitting that, just as the harbour in Kirkcaldy is re-opened to commercial shipping for the first time in over 20 years, the man it inspired could be about to deliver even greater benefits.

Adam Smith saw ships arriving in the busy port from across the world, all laden with goods, and understood that trade was global, that everything interacted.

While the ships’ crews offloaded their produce and then set sail with fresh cargo, Smith, a hugely respected scholar, sat in his mother’s house at 220 High Street - just yards from the harbour - picked up his pen, and wrote ‘The Wealth Of Nations.’

What he saw in Kirkcaldy 235 years ago continues to influence political leaders and governments, and captivate the greatest academics and economists.

‘‘If he had grown up in a landlocked village in the middle of Fife, he may never have written ‘Wealth Of Nations’ ‘‘ said Gordon Brown MP.

‘‘Only by watching the hundreds of ships coming into Kirkcaldy every few weeks did he realise that trade was the engine of prosperity.

‘‘The Esplanade has a lot to answer for ... and it still has a huge part to play in the town.’’

On the map

While Smith’s name lives on in Kirkcaldy, from the college to the theatre and housing, the plans for a permanent centre in his honour offers tangible, sustainable benefits to the town in terms of tourism and jobs.

‘‘This is about putting the town on the map and attrracting more people here,’’ said Mr Brown.

‘‘We have great architecture and history here, and we have a lot of Smith artefacts. We’re looking to bring them together and create a permanent centre.

‘‘The summer school is a definite plan and there will be inaugural activity in 2012 which will determine its shape for the years to come.

‘‘We should be able to attract a good gathering of economists and historians as well as philantropists and people who study the work of Adam Smith, and bring them to town where they will be able to walk the streets Smith walked, and see the artefacts we have on him as well as taking part in lectures on his work,.

Positive impact

‘‘We have to think of this in terms of tourism - it will bring people to town where they will stay and generate business for local places - and also jobs.

‘‘Together with the lecture, and a permanent exhibition it could make a huge difference to tourism here.

‘‘We believe we will see the difference it makes locally and that will give us confidence about the future.’’

Craig Thomson, principal of the Adam Smith College, believes the economist’s lasting legacy to the town could be far reaching.

‘‘The idea there is no legacy to Smith locally is a myth,’’ he said.

‘‘There are still many buildings standing from the days he lived here - he would have walked down Kirk Wynd to the harbour, and many parts of the town are still the same.

‘‘Other towns and cities have heritage centres and facilities which have many spin-offs - this could be the same.

‘’There is a Mozart Centre in Vienna, but you don’t need to be a musician or academic to go and enjoy and appreciate his work.

Global interest

‘’Globally the Smith ‘brand’ is huge so it can bring real benefits to Kirkcaldy. There is a great international connection to something we maybe take for granted - Adam Smith is one of the biggest names in the world.

‘‘I’ve spoken at universities in America and everyone knew his work, and when my colleague, David Astill, our directror of international business, was in China speaking to a large group, he asked students to raise their hands if they’d heard of Scotland, and some went up.

‘‘When he asked if they’d heard of Adam Smith, many more hands went up!’’

The drive to create a permanent centre complete with a summer school of lectures looking at the big issues - morality, philosophy and econimics, all delivered by leading names- aims to tap into a huge and enduring market created by a man called Smith.