Written evidence submitted by Anthony Salamone – Managing Director, European Merchants
The Effective Promotion of Scotland in the World
- I am the founder and Managing Director of European Merchants, the Scottish political analysis firm in Edinburgh. A political scientist and analyst, I have written extensively on Scotland’s profile in and relationships with the rest of Europe and the wider world. I am a Member of the Edinburgh Europa Institute at the University of Edinburgh.
- This written evidence considers five dimensions of the promotion of Scotland in the world by the UK Government. The following sections examine: (1) defining Scotland’s interests; (2) the state of intergovernmental relations; (3) the indicative example of COP26; (4) modernising Scotland’s global profile; and (5) improving intergovernmental cooperation. This evidence reflects the state of affairs as of September 2022.
Section 1: Defining Scotland’s Interests
- In order to assess how well the UK Government is promoting Scotland’s interests, it is essential first to define those interests. Even where judged to be as straightforward as “securing more foreign direct investment” or “increasing Scottish global exports”, such ambitions still require a substantive basis, specific priorities and measurable objectives. This logic applies to the work of both the UK Government and the Scottish Government on international relations. Nevertheless, the tendency for vagueness on executive action in these fields can often be strong. Such vagueness can suit governments, as it reduces the ability to evaluate their performance, but it is surely problematic for parliaments and it rarely serves the public. Scotland is a constituent part of the United Kingdom and, at the same time, has particular economic strengths and weaknesses, demographic trends, trade patterns and sources of soft power. The global promotion of Scotland should take sufficient account of those specific circumstances. In turn, Scotland’s interests and the needs which flow from them should be well defined to guide the work of government.
- Defining Scotland’s interests and needs for global promotion – whether in relation to trade, investment, higher education, culture or other aspects – demands a collaborative approach. It would be strange and ineffective if the UK Government attempted to define those interests on its own in isolation. Instead, a model of collaboration would involve continual dialogue with business, civil society and government in Scotland. Crucially, it would entail regular cooperation with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. Here, common mantras such as “foreign policy is reserved” are limiting and unhelpful. While the observance of constitutional norms is undeniably important, it should be neither a barrier to meaningful intergovernmental dialogue nor an excuse for unilateral thinking in London. An assumption that Scotland’s needs are inherently identical to the preferences of central government would be flawed. The remedy to that assumption is effective partnership between governments along with purposeful sectoral engagement. Ideally, cross-party agreement in Scotland would be found on defining those interests.
Section 2: State of Intergovernmental Relations
- The nature and extent of cooperation between the UK Government and the Scottish Government on the global promotion of Scotland has a material impact on its success or failure. In exercising the roles of a state, the UK Government maintains a foreign policy, a diplomatic network and expertise on international relations. In exercising the roles of a sub-state, the Scottish Government has an external affairs policy, representative offices and expertise on Scotland. The best outcomes will arise where the two governments work together to create synergies which advance Scotland’s interests and needs across the various dimensions of international affairs. Such cooperation is entirely compatible with the present constitution and the powers of the respective governments (as is the Scottish Government pursuing reasonable international engagement as part of the UK). As two distinct entities, it is inevitable that political and policy differences will emerge between the UK Government and the Scottish Government. These differences can be more extensive when each administration is run by separate political parties, but they would surely exist to some degree in any case, given their specific responsibilities and perspectives. Nevertheless, the two governments should find means of cooperating consistently to promote Scotland in the world, regardless of their own differences.
- By contrast, the current state of intergovernmental relations on international affairs is marked by competition. To a significant extent, the UK Government and the Scottish Government regularly vie with each other over who can better promote and represent Scotland. Their competition affects both internal actors within Scotland and the rest of the UK and external actors outwith the UK. Unsurprisingly, however, neither business nor civil society desires to become caught in intergovernmental political discord. Indeed, this environment of competition produces negative effects for Scotland. Government efforts spent on outbidding its counterpart can take attention away from the promotion of Scotland in its own right. Businesses and organisations can face confusion when confronted with government programmes that compete with rather than complement each other. Business and civil society (whether domestic or international) can feel pressured to choose greater engagement with one government over the other, or otherwise to manage relationships with both gingerly. This present state of affairs is unfavourable and detracts from the effective promotion of Scotland in the world.
Section 3: Indicative Example of COP26
- As a first-order global summit in Glasgow, COP26 serves as an indicative example of how the promotion of Scotland by government functions at present. Such promotion in this context has direct and indirect dimensions. The indirect factors relate to the conference itself – notably, the presence or absence of a final deal and the experience of delegates and other guests. Ultimately, a climate deal was reached (the Glasgow Climate Pact) and no newsworthy logistical difficulties arose. Those outcomes benefitted Scotland’s global reputation (and, conversely, the reverse could have damaged it). The UK Government, as holder of the COP26 presidency, secured the climate deal. The conference logistics were a joint effort by it, the Scottish Government and local authorities. Their delivery of a successful conference was positive indirect promotion for Scotland. In sum, the two governments can cooperate well logistically to promote Scotland where they so choose.
- Beyond the conference proceedings, COP26 presented a rare opportunity to promote Scotland directly to a global audience of political leaders, businesspeople, civil society representatives and many others. Promotional vectors related to the themes of COP26 included: Scottish research and development on climate change and renewable energy; new energy investment opportunities in Scotland; and local and national Scottish policy initiatives related to decarbonisation. Wider vectors extended to trade, investment, education, culture and tourism opportunities in Scotland generally. However, while the synergies of promotional cooperation should have been obvious and compelling, the UK Government and the Scottish Government operated predominantly separate presences at COP26. The number and scope of joint initiatives between the two governments at the COP26 fringe and wider ecosystem were minimal. Some degree of political tension was inevitable, in that the UK Government hosted a major international conference in Scotland in which the Scottish Government wished to participate but had no formal role. Nevertheless, since COP26 was one of the most significant global events to take place in Scotland, cooperation beyond logistics should have trumped competition. In reality, the full potential of COP26 to promote Scotland was likely not realised, as in other cases.
Section 4: Modernising Scotland’s Global Profile
- A foundational consideration for the promotion of Scotland is its global profile today: for what Scotland is recognised, how well Scotland is known and what commonly motivates engagement with Scotland. States and sub-states often dedicate significant attention to their global profiles, investing resources to shape them in some form to suit their values, interests or needs. Scotland has many positive and resonant profile attributes, ranging from its landscapes, literature and iconic culture to its food and drink, major universities and large diaspora. The challenge – for government and wider society – is to ensure that this global profile reflects the breadth of modern Scotland. It is still the case that many people around the world recognise Scotland more for its past than its present, and know Scotland’s cultural traditions but not its scientific excellence. The UK Government, along with the same partners who should be involved in defining Scotland’s interests, should give adequate consideration to how to modernise Scotland’s global profile. Such a task is not about discarding Scotland’s heritage – it is about combining it with its modernities.
- The modernisation of Scotland’s global profile should incorporate several dimensions. First, it should clarify how Scotland’s significant soft power strengths can be marshalled to catalyse connections. For instance, engagement with the Scottish global diaspora should certainly involve trade and investment, where relevant, but it should not be seen as extractive. Instead, the aim should be to foster a holistic sense of community. Second, it should identify core long-term priorities for the global promotion of Scotland, linked to the definition of its interests and needs. Those priorities should look beyond the small number of well-known Scottish goods exports regularly cited and give greater emphasis to research and development, higher education, start-up industries and strengths in the service economy. Third, it should consider global regions and individual countries which are or should be focal points for the promotion of and engagement with Scotland. Such choices should take account of its established values and long-term interests. Fourth, it should reflect on how to deploy Scotland’s soft power for public good. This work would develop a principle that soft power should deliver public benefits wherever possible.
Section 5: Improving Intergovernmental Cooperation
- The global promotion of Scotland by government is intrinsically linked with the interests and priorities chosen for advocacy. While the UK Government has standing to showcase Scotland and its strengths, the greatest success depends on effective cooperation with business, civil society and government in Scotland. In turn, the UK Government and the Scottish Government should develop further avenues of working together to promote Scotland’s interests and needs, whatever their political or policy differences. Although the two governments already collaborate in this domain to some extent, they could surely increase their cooperation and limit their competition. A fundamental difference exists between basic facilitation and genuine partnership. On promoting Scotland in the world, the UK Government and the Scottish Government should strive for the latter. The UK Government should take the initiative to enhance such cooperation in this field.
- A collection of measures could be taken to improve intergovernmental cooperation on the promotion of Scotland’s interests in the world. First, the UK Government could offer greater detail on how promoting Scotland is specifically integrated into its foreign policy. Future reviews of UK foreign policy could examine this work and related cooperation with the Scottish Government. Second, the International Relations Concordat could be revised to reflect the evolution of government activity in this domain and to codify new means of collaboration on international affairs. Third, an intergovernmental agreement could be concluded specifically about cooperation on the global promotion of Scotland. Fourth, the UK Government and the Scottish Government could establish joint initiatives to foster global engagement with Scotland on trade and investment or other areas. Fifth, the two administrations could explain the synergies (or lack thereof) of their existing initiatives, particularly the GREAT Campaign of the UK Government and the Scotland Is Now Campaign of the Scottish Government. Sixth, the two governments could consider undertaking joint international events, such as common trade missions, for the benefit of Scotland. More broadly, the UK Government and the Scottish Government should seek to forge productive relationships to promote Scotland effectively in the world.