On 20 and 21 October Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited Paris for a programme of engagements encompassing meetings with French Government Ministers and representatives, cultural engagements with Scottish and French stakeholders, and an SDI reception.
She had productive discussions with French Minister for Europe Harlem Désir expressing the Scottish Government's support for continuing our EU membership, and the ongoing cooperation between Scotland and France including our cultural links and shared interests in renewable energy.
Ms Hyslop also met with Kléber Arhoul, the newly-appointed National Coordinator for Integration of Refugees to France, to discuss the work underway in both Scotland and France to welcome newly arrived refugees.
France and Scotland share a long history of successful cultural cooperation. The ongoing benefits of the relationship were in evidence in the presence of two great projects in Ms Hyslop's programme - Live Music Now and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.
Live Music Now Scotland aim to bring live music to a diverse range of people that rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to experience it - they often perform to groups of children, elderly people, and individuals with special needs. They do this by selecting young, professional musicians who combine exceptional performing skills with special qualities of insight, generosity of spirit and flexibility. Since 2013, Live Music Now France has been established using the model developed in Scotland - this is in no small part due to the involvement of Live Music Now Scotland in a 2013 visit to France by Fiona Hyslop during which a cultural Statement of Intent was signed. In Paris Ms Hyslop was able to see the benefits of this collaboration as musicians from Scotland and France joined to perform for a group of schoolchildren.
The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry was part-funded by the Scottish Government and aims to tell the story of Scottish diaspora communities around the world. The Tapestry includes 12 panels from France featuring many figures from Scottish and French history including Mary de Guise, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Edinburgh-born John Law who created the Banque Générale and introduced bank notes to France, and Sir James Young Simpson who introduced chloroform as an anesthetic and was elected foreign member of the French Academy of Medicine in 1853. Paris marked the last stop of the Tapestry's Europe tour - having been on display in Norway, Italy and the Netherlands - before its transport to Australia and New Zealand.
Ms Hyslop's visit was also a timely opportunity to highlight the recent successes of Scottish food and drink exports to France. Since 2007 the value of Scottish food and drink exports to France has increased by more than 50 per cent and their total value reached £733 million in 2014, up 4.4 per cent on the previous year. This is in no small part due to the active presence of the Scottish Development International office in Paris who hosted a reception at the British Council during Ms Hyslop's visit. The reception was a valuable opportunity to meet with key partners in France and lay the groundwork for Scottish exporters to continue their success in the future.
Friends of Europe
From Paris Fiona Hyslop travelled to Brussels to attend 'The State of Europe 2015' event organised by Friends of Europe, a think-tank which aims to stimulate thinking on key global and European issues spanning political, economic, social and environmental challenges.
Ms Hyslop attended the President’s Dinner on October 21st, which gathered high-level guests including leading European policy makers and senior representatives of civil society, business and the media.
The dinner was co-hosted by Friends of Europe President, Viscount Etienne Davignon and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
The following day, Ms. Hyslop participated in the State of Europe round table discussion and gave her views on “Regaining public trust in the European Union”.