June 20, 2019

Scottish foreign policy, an overview

By H.E. Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

Ms Hyslop, everyone is acquainted to the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, The Rt Hon Boris Johnson yet few are aware that through devolution Scotland is entitled to a degree of external (i.e. foreign) policy, which you embody since 2011. What is briefly your role as Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs?

To which degree is Scotland able to conduct a policy on external affairs, and which are the ongoing priorities. My role is simply to promote Scotland where it is, and where she wants to be. Through devolution and normally through the Commonwealth Secretariat, we can engage with foreign governments, and in fact do, but in practice we accomplish much more. For example, in globally significant issues such as climate change, Scotland has exemplary legislation. From anywhere in the world, we have the most powerful wind turbine near Aberdeen, which is due to power up to 70% of the city’s energy needs, and we hope to expand this success to other cities.

We have world leading universities in Scotland, four in total before even the English counterparts such as Oxford were founded. Our research is likewise remarkable, and Germany is our main partner in the latter field in connection to our universities.

Our reach is global, we have Scottish offices in Beijing, in Washington D.C., Dublin, London, and now also in Berlin. This is an important statement from the Scottish Government to highlight the importance of Germany as our partner in Europe.

While we do not engage in defence policy, we have so much work to do promoting exports, trade, environmental protection and education.

H.E. Fiona Hyslop. Scotland is now – Picture by Scottish Government.

– Scotland’s Government is represented in London, Dublin, Brussels, Beijing and Washington DC. Now also in Berlin. Why Berlin, why Germany? Will the office liaise also for other countries?

Germany is number one vis-à-vis our university partnerships, number two concerning tourism and as trading market. This summer is particularly important, for Glasgow and Berlin are co-hosting the European Championships. People will be attending physically as well as watching all over Europe. What better example of European cooperation between Scotland and Germany?

The Berlin’s office’s location allows us to combine increasing government contacts as well as the promotion of tourism, trade and research. In terms of historical connections, the links go back very far. For example, William Wallace in the XIII century wrote a letter encouraging ties with the Hanseatic League, chiefly cities in the German Empire.

We also wish to use our Berlin hub to reach out to Central Europe in particular. People may not be aware than almost half of EU nationals living in Scotland hail from Poland. Our Polish connections are very important for us as well. The Baltic States might also be included because of our Nordic-Baltic Strategy.

As you are likely aware when Scottish philosopher David Hume visited the then Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, he wrote that “should Germany be united, it would make the greatest country” in Europe. The Hanoverians once inherited the British throne through their Stuart consanguinity, and their descendants are still at the helm of the UK. Are you planning to build upon the historical bands between Germany and Scotland.

I am focusing on the future, and naturally understanding each other, which comes from fathoming the past. We would like to ensure that our connections have a focus on young people, hence the very first European Championships hosted jointly by Glasgow and Berlin are so important to us.

Culture will play a role during the event. For instance, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of Arts in Berlin will host a concert together, and there will be a plethora of opportunities for youngsters to convene. We want relations based on building a common future.

– The Commonwealth of Nations Summit 2018 was just held at London 19-20 April. What role plays Scotland within this free association of 53 sovereign states? What do you say to those who deem it as the prime alternative to EU membership?

For the Scottish Government remaining in the EU is the preferred choice, unfortunately some of the other parts of the United Kingdom voted to leave the Union, and that goes against our wishes. We shall endeavour to maintain the best ties with the EU, ideally within the Common Market. On the other side, many Scots left Scotland generations ago to all parts of what is today the Commonwealth. Hence you shall find many Canadian, New Zealanders or Australians, for example, with Scottish descent who maintain their ties with Scotland, and this encourages our contact with other countries.

Scotland also has a significant development aid budget, where we work with countries of the Commonwealth such as Malawi. In fact, our development aid has had a huge impact for the country, and the President of Malawi, Peter Mutharika recently paid a visit to Scotland to reinforce our connections. This is a practical example of our active diplomacy but also of the people-to-people contacts which are paramount for our external affairs.

For further information:

Fiona Hyslop: https://beta.gov.scot/about/who-runs-government/cabinet-and-ministers/cabinet-secretary-culture-tourism-external-affairs/



European Championships 2018 in Berlin and Glasgow: https://www.europeanchampionships.com




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