What does the Commonwealth mean to me?
When I asked myself that question as I drove to the Commonwealth Business Conference in Glasgow yesterday the answer I arrived at was very little.
Outside of the four-yearly games cycle, I could not think of any real impact which the Commonwealth had had on my life.
Taking a moment out to think, I suspect many others living in modern Scotland may also struggle to grasp the relevance of a group of nations and territories whose only outward connection is membership of an organisation established decades ago following the decolonisation of the British Empire.
It is a strange old beast, too. The Commonwealth has a figurehead in the Queen, and under its rules all of the 53 member states are ‘free and equal’ in their influence in the organisation, regardless of their size or economic power.
That means that Lesotho, Nauru, Kiribati, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Vanuatu and many others that the majority of people in the UK would struggle to pinpoint on a map have the same standing as the UK despite the economic gulf between them.
So, does the Commonwealth actually matter in the 21st century?
Within minutes of arriving at the conference, my eyes had been opened.
How could you fail to see the economic opportunities that lie within a group of states that represent a global population of more than 2.3 billion people and which collectively have a nominal estimated gross domestic product of more than $10 trillion per year.
That is a phenomenal sum of money and demonstrates the phenomenal sphere of influence the Commonwealth still holds.
So yes, there is no doubt the Commonwealth is relevant and whether, like me, you were aware of it or not it still wields influence.
The conference itself, which was hosted by the national business agency Scottish Enterprise, was designed to make the most of the global connections the Commonwealth offers.
Interestingly, SE chief executive Lena Wilson was particularly interested in using the opportunity to develop links with many of the smallest nations of the Commonwealth.
She argued that the businesses opportunities presented by developing nations were at least as compelling as those in the so-called developed world.
It is a rationale already being put into practice in Scotland’s name. How many people, for argument’s sake, know that SE has a presence in Accra in the hope of fostering business links with Ghana?
But no one doubts there is a long way to go if Scotland is to truly capitalise on the opportunities offered by the Commonwealth or other emerging nations.
However, the conference demonstrated to me that the goodwill needed to do economically significant business across the Commonwealth exists.
Major politicians including First Minister Alex Salmond were on hand to press the flesh, while a who’s who of Scottish and UK business including home-grown billionaire Jim McColl, Eben Upton, the inventor of the cheap Raspberry Pi computer, the founder of Nando’s Robert Brozin and the chief executive of the UK Green Investment Bank Shaun Kingsbury were all on the delegate list.
But for once the conference was not about them.
It was about getting to know the dozens of less-familiar faces in the room such as Rahul Mirchandani, founder president of the Commonwealth-Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs, and Sunil Kant Munjal, the joint managing director of Indian scooter manufacturer Hero Corp.
All around the room there were people with influence and experience of doing business successfully in all corners of the Commonwealth. And they are serious about doing it here.
That is not an intangible thing. It is something that can be grasped and, to a sceptic like me, it was uplifting to see efforts made to do just that.
Conducting business on an international basis is not a simple process.
But the Commonwealth the very construct I was so unmoved by could just be the conduit required for success.