Jack McConnell, in the United States for Tartan Week celebrations, suggested education was helping shape a renaissance in Scotland which could usher in a new Scottish Enlightenment (the flowering of philosophy and ideas which was Scotland's distinctive contribution to the 18th century).
Mr McConnell commented: "The educational tradition that contributed to the enlightenment remains strong. Nearly all Scottish youngsters go to their local public sector school and, by the time young Scots are 15-years-old, they are among the highest performing students in the world."
He singled out excellence in the medical sciences, stem cells, infomatics and gravitational waves. "Any one of these could produce Scotland's next Nobel prize."