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Golf, music, the Games and selling Scotland to the world

THERE'S a scene in the film Minority Report where Tom Cruise is standing at a computer interface moving around blocks of information, data whizzing past at his fingertips.

This is a bit like what I imagine the inner workings of Paul Bush's brain to look like. A constant whirr of facts and figures - dates, times, locations, venue capacities - that correspond to the country's most high-profile, hot-ticket events.

As the man at the helm of EventScotland, Bush is gearing up for an eyewateringly busy few months. Circled on the calendar are the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, Homecoming Scotland 2014 and the MTV Europe Music Awards to name but a few.

He would be forgiven for running around like the proverbial blue bahookied fly, yet as he sits in his office on the Leith waterfront in Edinburgh, the 56-year-old exudes a calm that belies what a stonker of a year 2014 is shaping up to be.

Asked what he's most looking forward to and Bush replies without hesitation. "There are three things: the Scottish team marching out at the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games; 7.40am on day one of the Ryder Cup when the first ball is hit; and the MTV Awards," he says.

Each marks the culmination of several years hard work, not least bringing the MTV Awards back to Scottish soil. The event was last held in Edinburgh in 2003 and securing its return has been a process seven years in the making. "I was fortunate enough to go to Amsterdam last year," says Bush. "MTV is an amazing property. It's just quite hip and sexy, isn't it? I don't think Glasgow knows what will hit it when MTV comes."

Before then - exactly 100 days from now - the top athletes from the Commonwealth will descend on Scotland. Bush was there when the idea to bid for Glasgow 2014 was first mooted during the Games in Manchester 12 years ago. "I remember the meeting at the Manchester Piccadilly Hotel over breakfast with Jack McConnell," says Bush. "'Good idea, we'll do it.' It was as simple as that."

Bush has a raft of colourful anecdotes in this vein. He joined EventScotland as sports director in 2004, becoming chief operating officer three years later. A self-described "glass half full person", he makes no bones about his bold ambitions to shape the landscape of the Scottish events industry.

He has a long list of hypothetical targets currently in his crosshairs, among them the 2023 Rugby World Cup which Bush believes could "engender some interesting impetus into the sport" if Scotland was to throw its hat into the ring. "Some of the pie-in-sky things are worth looking at," he says. "Most people would say: 'Rugby World Cup - don't be daft', but look at the Music of Black Origin Awards coming to Glasgow. That was a breakthrough in the music industry. Everyone said: 'You'll never get a show out of London' but we did.

"We hope the Brits will come to Scotland one day," he adds. "The music industry will have to wake-up. I was at the O2 [for the Brit Awards in February] and it's a great event but probably needs a fresh look. That would drive huge benefit economically."

To that end, Scotland as a whole, says Bush, will reap the financial rewards when the MTV Awards take place in Glasgow on November 9. "MTV has 1000 staff in town for a week," he says. "Circa £10 million is the benefit at present but we believe it will way exceed that. They will bring in 2000 corporate guests at that level" - he gestures to the ceiling - "for three or four days and they will take Scotland's best hotels from Gleneagles to Cameron House and Turnberry."

Bush comes across as a gregarious character with a fierce intelligence and dry wit. Growing up in his hometown of Leicester, he was a keen rugby player and club swimmer. Bush qualified as a teacher, but never made it as far as a classroom. "It was the late 1970s and early 1980s, the teachers' strikes were on, there were no jobs," he says. "I went to work as a trainee surveyor for the inland revenue and began coaching swimming."

He worked alongside Adrian Moorhouse's coach, Terry Dennison, during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul when the British swimmer won gold. In 1992, Bush stood out among the "blazers" as the youngest ever team manager of British Swimming at the Olympics in Barcelona. After six years managing the British and English squads - plus a short-lived stint at Sport England - he was appointed chief executive of Scottish Swimming in 1998. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, he was general team manager for the Scots contingent and then chef de mission four years later in Melbourne.

Bush views his role at EventScotland as a "vocation" and sees burning the midnight oil as part and parcel of that. "I'm a driven person," he says. "It's seven days a week." But he admits to slowly getting better at switching off. "I have learned that I don't do everything now," he says, smiling. "Sometimes the nicest part of week is to have a Saturday night at home, take the dogs to the pub."

He and his wife Katriona have called Scotland home for 16 years. They live in Perthshire with a trio of "daft retrievers" Barney, Holly and Brodie. With Katriona overseeing media relations for Commonwealth Games Scotland life in the Bush household is rarely dull - although it does require the kind of meticulous strategic planning that would put most successful military campaigns to shame.

"We need to be organised," he says. "We have calendar planning exercises at home. I've become really quite good with holidays and will plan them nearly a year in advance.

"We will ask friends for dinner and give them a date four months away. We had to do that the other night. Ironically they couldn't do the date, so it was back to the drawing board."

Bush asserts that 2015 is shaping up to be every bit as "stellar" with the World Gymnastics Championships and European Judo Championships, both in Glasgow, the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Atholl, Perthshire, World Orienteering Championships in Inverness and Ricoh Women's British Open at Turnberry.

The 2015 Turner Prize will take place at the Tramway in Glasgow, the first time the award and exhibition has come to Scotland. "That was a huge coup," he says. "We forced the Tate Modern to put a competition in place. We were up against four or five cities in the UK but Glasgow has such a strong pedigree in visual arts."

Edinburgh may have lost out to Yorkshire in hosting the grand depart of this year's Tour de France, but the Scottish capital welcoming the world's most famous bike race isn't something Bush has given up on. "We continue to have a dialogue with ASO [organisers of the Tour], and it is a watch, wait and see," he says. "We have to see how Yorkshire goes. We'll take stock in the autumn."

Bush believes there is scope to target another lucrative cycling event: the World Road Championships. "It lasts a week, it would all be in Scotland and you could showcase the country," he says. "The British Road Race Championships in Glasgow last summer was a huge success with 30,000 people lining the streets."

While reticent to be drawn on his own views on the Scottish independence referendum, Bush believes that, whatever way the pendulum swings on September 18, it will have little effect on his daily remit. "Whether I vote at all is probably the question," he muses. "I'm apolitical. I've been privileged to work with lots of great politicians, but I've been able to divorce the politics from the work.

"In terms of an independence debate in Scotland? It will have no impact on our work whatever the outcome. Our core focus is about selling a great country and whether we are independent or not we still have to do that."

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