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More should be done to promote Scotland globally ‘beyond the tartan’ but positive signs of collaboration between governments, MPs find

13 September 2023

MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee found evidence the UK and Scottish Governments often collaborate well when promoting Scotland’s interests abroad but more work is needed to highlight modern Scottish successes in sectors such as Science and Space.

In Promoting Scotland Internationally, a new report published today, MPs found more traditional Scottish associations such as tartan, whisky and golf act as useful hooks to create interest but the UK Government needs to do more so the country's international profile reflects contemporary success stories such as Scotland’s world-leading scientific research, space and energy sectors.

While foreign affairs is reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government also has an interest in how international obligations are met in respect of key devolved areas and have established a presence in a number of international locations including Paris, Brussels and Dublin.

The Committee visited the USA to see first-hand how Scotland is promoted abroad. This involved attending New York’s ‘Tartan Week’ where Members spoke with Scottish diaspora groups to understand how such events helped develop and re-affirm links with Scotland.

The Committee also visited Washington DC, where a Scottish Government team is based within the British Embassy building. Committee Members found the two governments’ teams were working constructively together. They also found the UK Government’s larger international footprint enabled Scotland’s interests to reach a wider audience than Scottish Government bodies, and that this had a positive impact for Scottish trade.

In order to ensure Scottish interests are promoted consistently across the world, the Committee recommended that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office enhance training for UK embassy staff on Scottish trade and industry priorities. The UK Government should also ensure more embassies are holding events to celebrate national days on St Andrew’s Day and Burns’ Night to highlight Scottish strengths, the Committee recommended.

Chair's comment

“While visiting the USA, we found there was a huge amount of potential and, with a clearer direction from the UK Government as well as ongoing collaboration with their Scottish Government counterparts, Scotland’s standing in the world can certainly continue to grow.
“Events such as Tartan Week in New York give a massive opportunity to promote Scottish business and tourism as well as nurturing vital relationships with our diaspora. We hope that both Governments can explore the possibility of expanding this initiative and develop effective strategies to maximise the benefits of such events.”

Scottish Affairs Committee Chair, Pete Wishart MP, said:

“This inquiry demonstrated how constructively the Scottish and UK Governments can work together to further the interests of Scotland, which I hope can serve as a template for other areas on which our objectives are the same.

“Where a lot of the international promotion of Scotland can at times seems to be characterised by tension and relationship difficulties between the UK and Scottish Governments, we found that the work on the ground is largely collaborative and constructive with a focus on serving vital Scottish interests.

“It’s critical the international view of Scotland keeps pace with the world-leading industries which set us apart. As a Committee, we really want to see more promotion of Scotland’s contemporary
strengths – for example, its outstanding science and space sectors – with a clear strategy which sets out how we will use our national days to build Scotland’s reputation.

Further information

Image: Parliament/Jessica Taylor