Both Peter Semple, chairman TSA Scotland and TSA CEO Murray Simpson pointed out that the St Andrews venue was a timely choice as this new year will be significant for Scotland with Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games, 23 July – 3 August, and the Referendum on Independence on 18 September.
The first speaker, David Lonsdale, assistant director CBI Scotland, addressed some of the issues surrounding the subject of Scotland’s independence and explained the CBI’s position. He had yet to be convinced that independence was a matter of politics rather than economics. In 2011 the CBI had strengthened its opposition and the UK chairman’s committee endorsed this in 2012 and in 2013.
While the final decision rests with the electorate, Lonsdale said that a CBI working group will examine concerns that the Scottish Government must address.
High profile issues include the implications of independence for North Sea Oil; currency and monetary policies; EU membership; public finance; the cost of Statehood; and the impact on businesses in terms of areas such as law, red tape and taxes.
Lower profile concerns, such as pensions, tax relief, share-save schemes, and state-owned assets, as well as the labour market, immigration and industrial relations must also be considered.
In a recent opinion poll of the business community, 51% thought that independence would not be positive for business and 62% believed that Scotland should not go independent.
The CBI would now evaluate the Scottish Government’s White Paper and also proposals for further devolution. Finally after the referendum CBI proposes to evaluate its effectiveness.
Golf professional Elliot Campbell changed the mood with an account of his career that was amusingly anecdotal in tone but also informative. He recounted how the sport had changed during his career. When he started the clubs were relatively simple and now they are high-tech instruments. He also described the progress of his career, including his many achievements. Clearly passionate about his subject, he was also a skilled speaker, very much in tune with his audience and kept the interest of everybody, even the non-golfers.
Finally, Elliot expressed the belief that in golf, the Old Course illustrated the philosophy that the best price is not always the cheapest.
Many of the audience would say that belief should be applied more often in the textile care industries.
John Miln, chief executive of the UKFT, the umbrella trade association for the fashion and textiles industries, explained the role of the association and how it works to support the many different sectors it represents.
UKFT is a network that brings together, designers, retailers, suppliers, manufacturers and agents to promote and represent the interests of members in the UK and in Europe. It offers support in areas such as education and training. It has been strongly involved in securing funding of £1.8million for projects in the sector in round one of the Employer Ownership of Skills project, and with a bid of £2.2million for round two.
It recognises the links with the Textile Services Association and common interests such as care labelling or the climate change levy. Like the TSA it holds seminars and it hosts CEO breakfasts to encourage networking opportunities. Above all UKFT recognises the need for industries that are fragmented to consolidate. "We are better working together," said Miln.

Energy trends
David Hunter, head of strategic alliances at Schneider Electric, examined the subject of energy management and pricing. He traced the background to the continuing trend of rapidly rising energy pricing.
In 2009 OFGEM put £2billion investment into rebuilding a badly damaged energy infrastructure. The industry had suffered from decades of under-investment and sweating the assets. There was no plan to address the decline of North Sea Oil; the nuclear industry had been allowed to wither.
Suddenly in the face of climate change, the energy industry is faced with growing demand worldwide.
The focus had to change. Greater efficiencies were needed to keep demand in check.
Turning to the subject of pricing in respect to natural gas, Hunter said that there are widely diverging trends. The USA has seen prices fall steeply. In 2008 levels were seven times higher than in Spring 2012. But in Europe prices are rising because contracts are tied to oil-indexed pricing and an increasing number of buyers are now purchasing in a liberalised hub.
One of the problems faced is the pressure on other sources. Electricity cannot be stored so capacity must exceed demand. Yet the UK national grid winter outlook reveals falling capacity margins, from 10% two years ago to 5% in 2013 and further falls are expected.
"Energy efficiency now makes more sense than ever before," said Hunter and opportunities do exist. He outlined five steps:
■ Develop a plan that fits the business;
■ Control and monitor the business’s operation from shop floor to top floor;
■ Optimise and execute projects that have a good return on investment.;
■ Robust reporting software is needed.

Change matters
"Every organisation needs to embrace change. Innovate or get left behind," was the message from Andy Hewitt, commercial director of Xeros. He continued: "Innovation leads to growth – just look at the growth of Apple."
The laundry industry has developed through innovation too. The batch washer has had a major influence but while the industry has come a long way in terms of automation and robotics, the basic process has not changed, he observed.
"So what could drive the future?" he asked. The answer was washing with polymer beads as in the Xeros system, a method that is "like hand washing to the power of a million". The system has been six years in development, including extensive field trials, and with the proven design of a machine that was now available to the industry, it was officially launched last year.
Xeros is on a mission to replace aqueous cleaning with its polymer bread cleaning. It’s a system that produces water savings ranging from 80% to almost 100% depending on the application, with resultant savings in energy and chemicals.
The Xeros system has changed the dynamics of cleaning and is now being used across the UK, USA, and Europe.

Low temperature disinfection
Disinfection in laundering is becoming increasingly important. Traditionally the UK has relied on high-temperature thermal disinfection, but this is now beginning to change. A team from Washing Systems discussed low temperature alternatives. Tom Storm, from the USA headquarters,
William Mitchell from the European operation and independent consultant, Eoin Flavin, looked at various aspects.
The first question was: "Are alternatives allowed?" The answer is yes, as both
CFPP 01-04 and EN14065 require validation and process control – they do not limit process design.
Devising an alternative, sustainable process requires consideration of two areas, sorting of soiled fabrics and the wash process. If the chemistry is right, then high temperatures are not necessary. A 40C process can clean and disinfect and there are several points in its favour.
Low temperature disinfection produces energy savings but requires minimum capital investment. Disinfection takes place in the final bath and this improves results.
A low temperature process is gentler and therefore prolongs fabric life.
It also has related benefits such as reducing dye loss and dye transfer, and lowering the risks of soiling redeposition. A wider range of fabrics can be disinfected if a low temperature process is used.

Engaging positively
Keynote speaker Marcus Child said that success in work is all about engaging positively with employees, making them feel involved in the business. "Hope is the nourisher," he said.
When Child starts working with a company, he gets a "picture" of how he wants the team to be at the end of a session and works on ways of getting them to that state.
Sadly, surveys in the UK show that relatively few employees feel truly engaged and appreciated and this affects their performance. Marcus Child is full of enthusiasm and he works to help companies engage more with their staff.
He certainly kept the audience engaged in a talk that lasted well over an hour.
Full of energy, enthusiasm and humour, Child constantly moved around, gesturing to make a point, but never forgot that he had a serious message to get across.