SIR Richard Branson has followed in the footsteps of former US president Bill Clinton by speaking at the Scottish Business Awards in Edinburgh.

Sir Richard, whose Virgin Money has this week been linked with a stock market flotation, took part in a question and answer session before nearly 2,000 guests at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), during which he spoke about "business as a focus for food" and his dream of creating commercial space travel.

The entrepreneur also presented two of the main awards, handing Sir Angus Grossart the award for outstanding contribution to Scottish business, and Aberdeen Asset Management the prize for overall company of the year.

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The awards were created and organised by Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of the Social Bite, the sandwich shop chain which gives job opportunities to the homeless.

Mr Littlejohn said: "Sir Richard making a rare appearance in Scotland was really special and the turnout of almost 2,000 people highlights the strength of the Scottish business community.

"The Scottish Business Awards has raised over £1 million for good causes in three years and I would like to thank all of the businesses who participated and made it such a memorable evening."

The awards judging panel awards was chaired by Sir Tom Hunter and gave prizes to: Martin Gilbert (entrepreneur of the year), Asda (corporate social responsibility), Hunter Adams (new business), Jackie Cropper (social entrepreneur), Tesco Bank (company culture), Leslie Benzies (chief executive), Itison (online business), Jumpstart (customer focus), Wood Group (Scottish plc), Scotshield (employer), The Leith Agency (marketing and PR strategy), Clintec International (business innovation), William Tracey (green business), Hot Docs (international business), Zonal Retail Data Systems (family business), GAP Group (growth strategy), Brenda Bryant (female entrepreneur), Kames Capital (financial services) and Rockstar North (product).