In a sign of the continued strengthening of the relationship between our two nations, Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf visited Ireland from the 17-19 February. The primary purpose of this visit was to give keynote speeches at two conferences focused on the forthcoming UK referendum on EU membership. It also provided an opportunity for the Minister to engage with business leaders and discuss how to further strengthen Scottish-Irish trade links. The Minister also formally opened the Scottish Government’s new Innovation and Investment Hub within the British Embassy in Dublin.
Centre for Cross Border Studies, Dundalk
The Minister’s first keynote speech was in Dundalk to a conference hosted by the Centre for Cross Border Studies – an Armagh-based think tank that works to build social, economic and territorial cohesion between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Humza Yousaf set out the Scottish Government’s strong commitment to the European Union, and its determination to make the positive case for preserving Scotland and the UK’s continued membership.
Through the course of his speech, he highlighted the wide array of social, as well as economic, benefits that Scotland has gained from the EU, including employment rights and anti-discrimination laws.
The trans-national solidarity and cooperation fostered by the EU was also cited as a crucial element in tackling humanitarian, environmental, and security issues. Although some areas of the EU may not be perfect, Scotland is committed to reforming it from within.
Listen to the speech and subsequent panel discussion in full at the Centre for Cross Border Studies' website.
The British-Irish Chamber of Commerce, Dublin
The following day the Minister also spoke to the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Conference in Dublin. He took this opportunity to discuss with the business audience what we have been doing in Scotland to promote sustainable, smart and inclusive growth. As set out in Scotland’s Economic Strategy, approaches to the Living Wage, the Fair Work Convention, and advancing gender equality were all outlined.
The Innovation and Investment Hub, Dublin
During the Irish visit, the Minister formally opened the Scottish Government’s new Innovation and Investment Hub at the British Embassy in Dublin. A key Programme for Government commitment, this initiative is specifically designed to build on existing links between the two countries, identify new opportunities for collaboration on innovation, increase trade and seek fresh investment into the Scottish economy. The Hub will become a platform from which Scottish Government, SDI and the enterprise agencies can all work alongside each other and with Irish partners.
There is a strong appetite in both our nations to build on the potential of existing trade and investment links. In the recently published Export Statistics Scotland 2014 report, the estimated value of Scottish exports to Ireland was £1.125 billion in 2014. Up by over 11% from 2013 this now makes Ireland Scotland’s 6th largest export market with further room for growth.
The Hub’s opening is a clear demonstration of the Scottish Government's desire to develop a closer working relationship with Ireland as a key EU partner. The office, headed up by experienced former UK diplomat John Webster, is set to offer dedicated support to a range of economic, academic, and innovation relationships on both sides of the Irish Sea. Collaboration continues to lie at the heart of the Scottish-Irish relationship.
Indeed, this was clear throughout the Minister’s trip. It provided a timely reminder that as the Scottish-Irish relationship continues to go from strength to strength, it is mutual European Union membership which has been a key factor in its growth.