With Scotland engulfed in deep contemplation of its future economic choices, it is interesting to reflect that the tradition of Adam Smith - espoused by the pro-free enterprise independence group Wealthy Nation - has for the past century been largely an export-only product.

The thought is prompted by obituaries of the Scots economic adviser to the Dubai government, William Duff, who has died aged 91.

Duff, whose father was an Aberdonian transplanted to Singapore, was a Middle East hand who did not live for long in Scotland, but, like Edinburgh-born Sir John Cowperthwaite (1915-2006) financial secretary for the Hong Kong government, he was soaked in Smith's non-interventionist philosophy. Both men played a big part in making these city states into beacons of global trade and bold policy innovation.

Loading article content

It was Duff who conceived the investment programme, including the visionary Jebel Ali free trade zone, that made the sleepy pearl-fishing port of Dubai into one of the world's greatest hubs. Even recognising the obvious differences between Scotland and Dubai, it's hard to think there is nothing we could learn from Duff's approach.